Attitudinal and behavioral outcomes of employees' psychological empowerment: a structural equation modeling approach.

Author:Chan, Yuen H.

    Traditionally, management practitioners and researchers have perceived empowerment as the driving force in the organizational social structural interventions which are necessary to transfer power from supervisors to subordinates (Kmieciak et al., 2012; Randolph and Kemery, 2011; Jha, 2010;). Such interventions are believed to enable employees to gain better control over resources and to optimize their capabilities in the work-environment (Huang, 2012; Zhang and Bartol, 2010; Thomas and Velthouse, 1990).

    These studies, among others, sought to identify management practices that could provide employees with more control over decisions regarding how to accomplish assigned duties and responsibilities (Dewettinck and van Ameijde, 2011; Meyerson and Kline, 2008; Bartunek and Spreitzer, 2006; Mathieu et al., 2006). A further review of the extant literature indicates that management's concern about the loss of control and power due to empowering subordinates who may engage in opportunism and other self-serving behaviors has not yet been addressed. Additionally, there is a dearth of literature presenting more holistic approaches towards the examination of the direct and indirect relationships of psychological empowerment with attitudinal and behavioral outcomes (Christens, 2012; Jiang et al., 2011) to more psychological aspects of empowerment (Ertuk, 2012; Kim and Kim, 2013; Thomas and Velthouse, 1990; Spreitzer, 1995).

    This study utilized a nomological network approach to validate the psychological empowerment construct and to help managers develop a better understanding of its consequences (Cronbach and Meehl, 1955). The theoretical model maps the direct and mediating indirect relationships of psychological empowerment with three types of organization commitment, job satisfaction and Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCB). To accomplish the stated objectives of this study, the authors will begin by providing readers with an overview of social exchange theory which provides the theoretical foundation for this study. This overview will be followed by hypothesis development, methodology, study results and managerial implications and conclusions. This study contributes to the literature in that it demonstrates the positive impact of psychological empowerment on employees' attitudes and behaviors. This study also contributes to the literature because it demonstrates the positive impact of psychological empowerment on employees' attitudes and behaviors in applied settings.


    2.1 Social Exchange Theory

    Social exchange theory has been applied to social settings ranging from intimate relationships to work settings and focuses on the behavior of individuals when interacting with one another (Homans, 1958). This theory essentially posits that all human relationships are formed through subjective cost-benefit analyses with their corresponding outcomes (Lawler et al., 2008; Lawler, 2001) and has been used as the theoretical basis in various studies in the business literature (Biron and Boon, 2013; Wadja and Hall, 2012; Byrne et al., 2011; Chen, et al., 2010). Social exchange theory is further based upon three propositions; success, stimulus and diminishing returns which are easily tied to empowerment thereby supporting its use in this study (Kim and Kim, 2013; Jiang et al., 2011; Dewettinck and Van Ameijde, 2011; Gregory et al., 2010).

    * Success proposition: rewarded actions tend to be repeated.

    * Stimulus proposition: the more often a particular action is rewarded the more likely it is that someone will respond to it in the future.

    * Diminishing return proposition: the more recent the reward has been received the less valuable that particular reward due to demand saturation.

    This review of social exchange theory thus provides the theoretical basis for the study hypotheses which are presented in the following section.

    2.2 Psychological Empowerment And OCB.

    A review of the literature on the relationship between psychological empowerment and OCB indicates that psychologically empowered employees are intrinsically motivated to adopt positive work performance behaviors when they perceive meaning, competence, self determination and impact from their work context (Krishnan, 2012; Taylor, 2013). Other research by both Spreitzer (1995) and Zhang and Bartol (2010) pointed towards the relationship between intrinsic motivation and the extent of psychological empowerment, which would subsequently generate a reciprocal response from the employees to the organization for its support. Additional support for this relationship is provided by Teh and Sun (2012) and Whitman et al. (2010) who observed that employees who perceived managerial support including empowerment, may, through the norms of reciprocity adopt discretionary behaviors like OCB. Similarly, a literature review provided evidence which suggested that OCB occurs more frequently under conditions of positive social exchange (Duffy and Lilly, 2013; Cohen et al., 2012; Jiao et al., 2011). Based on this support the logical outcome of such a relationship should be the adoption of OCB (Chiang et al., 2013; Kim et al., 2013; Suazo, 2011; Chan et al., 2008; Organ, 1988), therefore H1 is provided:

    H1. There is a direct and positive relationship between the level of employees' perception of empowerment and the level of adoption of OCB.

    2.3 Psychological Empowerment and Job Satisfaction

    The proposed relationship between psychological empowerment and job satisfaction is not new and is believed to be linked with organizational performance (Dewettinck and Van Ameijde, 2011; Dickson and Lorenz, 2009; Wang and Lee, 2009). As such, one of the main objectives of empowerment is to enhance employees' job satisfaction by enabling them to have better control over their work which in turn is believed to lead to increased productivity and reduced turnover (Randolph and Kemery, 2011; Wang and Lee, 2009). Spreitzer, Kizilos and Nason (1997) observed that one of the earliest anticipated outcomes of empowerment which generates a social exchange relationship is job satisfaction. Other studies using the psychological empowerment construct have empirically demonstrated the existence of a positive relationship between an individual's cognition of empowerment and job satisfaction (Lin and Tseng, 2013; Messersmith et al., 2011; Butts et al., 2009). Based on this evidence, H2 is provided:

    H2. There is a direct and positive relationship between the level of employees' perceptions of empowerment and their level of job satisfaction.

    2.4 Psychological Empowerment and Organization Commitment

    Organization commitment is a generally accepted outcome of empowering management practices (Randolph and Kemery, 2011; Jiang, et al., 2011; Kuo et al., 2010). Past research suggests that employees are more committed to the organization if they are given an "opportunity to do important and challenging work, to meet and interact with interesting people, and to learn new skills and develop as a person" (Meyer and Allen, 1997; p.3). The relationship between psychological empowerment and organization commitment is also supported by social exchange theory which suggests that benevolent acts on the part of managers which empower employees will result in employees reciprocating through an increased willingness to remain with the organization (Elloy, 2012).

    Organization commitment is further broken down into three components (affective, normative and continuance commitment). Affective commitment reflects an employee's desire to be emotionally attached to and involved in the organization (Meyer and Allen, 1997). Affective commitment has been positively correlated with job challenge, degree of autonomy, the variety of skills the employee uses, participation in decision-making, support, fair treatment, and enhancement of personal importance and competence (Albrecht and Andreetta, 2011; Dewettinck and Van Ameijde, 2011).

    Normative commitment is a consequence of an employee's feeling of obligation to remain with the organization. Normative commitment, is based on an employee's obligation to stay based upon the belief that it is the "right and moral" thing to do (Meyer and Allen, 1991). Vardi et al., (1989) found that employees whose organization's mission is consistent with their cultural values exhibit a stronger normative commitment. This finding is more in keeping with the meaning component of psychological empowerment. Research has found that many of the work experiences that predict affective commitment are also related, although not as strongly, to normative commitment (Ambad and Bahron, 2012; Hashmi and Naqvi, 2012; Allen and Meyer, 1996).

    Finally, continuance commitment is a calculated response of the employee to remain in the organization after considering the costs associated with leaving. Research on continuance commitment suggests that employees evaluate the benefit of staying against the cost of seeking a new job or moving to a new location (McDermott et al., 1996). However research found that the relationship between continuance commitment and empowerment was weak (Kuo et al., 2010; Ozag, 2006; Clercq and Rius, 2013). Therefore it is expected that employees who are empowered will adopt an affective attitude to the organization, similarly, empowerment is expected to dampen opportunism and reduce the desire to leave which are reflective of a continuance commitment attitude (Gbadamosi et al, 2007; Jain et al., 2009). Hence the following hypotheses are proposed:

    H3a. There is a direct and positive relationship between the level of employees' perception of psychological empowerment and their levels of affective commitment.

    H3b. There is a direct and positive relationship between the level of employees' perception of psychological empowerment and their level of normative commitment.

    H3c. There is negative and significant relationship between employees' perception of...

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