To me, empowerment is about giving employees the permission to give customers priority and to use their creative talents to find solutions when issues arise, without having to run to management and ask for permission to do something. Southwest Airlines is a good example of a company that highly empowers their employees and gives them great latitude to keep customers happy. It means fostering an environment of trust and helping employees learn from successes and analyze failures.
It takes training, practice, and the ability to accept mistakes as a part of the learning process — but it is well worth the effort in the long run! Share your successful ideas in the "Comments" section below. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Share to facebook Share to twitter Share to linkedin. A handful of studies have investigated the psychological mechanisms behind the influencing process of empowering leadership, such as self-efficacy and psychological ownership Kim and Beehr, b , psychological empowerment e. Previous studies have made progress in exploring the relationship between psychological empowerment and feedback seeking behavior Chen et al.
However, the constructs of empowering leadership and psychological empowerment are definitely different. Despite existing researches that illustrates the effects of both psychological empowerment on feedback seeking behavior and empowering leadership on psychological empowerment Chen et al. This study addresses this gap by examining feedback seeking behavior as a mediator. We also extend the literatures investigating on psychological mechanisms behind the influencing process of empowering leadership by applying a new lens of behavioral perspective. Scholars suggest that feedback-seeking behavior is a particular type of proactive behavior i.
It is especially relevant for proactive performance improvement Huang, Via feedback-seeking behavior, employees can better respond to the requirements of situations and therefore behave more effectively within organizations Parker and Collins, In this study, we apply social exchange theory Blau, ; Emerson, to explain the mediating role of feedback seeking in the relationships between empowering leadership and work outcomes. Social exchange theory suggests that high-quality social exchange relationships obey the norm of reciprocity Blau, ; Emerson, More concretely, the recipients of benefits are somehow obligated to provide returns to the givers Emerson, Feedback-seeking helps a person improve his or her performance and brings about desirable outcomes Huang, ; Ashford et al.
Our second contribution is to advance the integration of multiple proactive behaviors i. Our third contribution is to provide empirical evidence for the relationship between empowering leadership and feedback-seeking behavior. Empowering leadership can provide strong support for employees via a series of positive managerial practices, such as encouragement, emotional support, and information giving Fong and Snape, ; Li et al.
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One critical proactive feedback-seeking behavior is commonly explained to be antecedent-orientated in accordance with three basic motives i. Specifically, empowering leadership focuses on sharing power and autonomy Harris et al. The higher layer of responsibility, in turn, may require the employees to demonstrate more advanced abilities and skills in the workplace.
Indeed, previous research has shown that newcomers seek feedback more frequently when their work needs higher levels of skills Wanberg and Kammeyer-Mueller, ; Ashford et al. More directly, a recent review suggests that subordinates are more willing to engage in feedback-seeking when they are given more autonomy Ashford et al. In addition, having gained greater power and autonomy from the empowering leaders, employees may experience more adaptability and flexibility in organizational contexts Lee et al.
As a result, employees feel better about themselves and their self-confidence of engaging in risky behaviors such as feedback seeking, voice, and taking charge is enhanced Ahearne et al. In addition, previous research has shown that employees with higher self-confidence are more likely to seek feedback Ashford, ; Ashford et al. If an individual has high amounts of self-confidence, they are less inclined to worry about the cost to their image when seeking feedback Ashford et al.
Therefore, we argue that under the management of empowering leaders, employees may weigh the instrumental benefits of feedback-seeking against the costs of potential ego and image. Feedback-seeking behavior is positively associated with in-role performance Nifadkar et al. Specifically, previous studies propose that when employees want to achieve good work performance, they must develop a precise understanding of their role and task requirements Renn and Fedor, ; Whitaker and Levy, For the sake of the knowledge about the self and tasks, employees will search for relevant information to the best of their ability Korman, ; Whitaker and Levy, Feedback-seeking behavior is considered to be instrumental in obtaining such information Ashford and Cummings, ; Ashford, Not surprisingly, feedback-seeking behavior positively influences several performance outcomes, such as task performance Lee et al.
Indeed, empirical studies have demonstrated that feedback-seeking can exert positive effects on task performance e. In the present study, we suggest that by using the performance-related information obtained by feedback-seeking, employees can have a better understanding of the task expectations, as well as how to cover any shortages in order to meet these expectations, which in turn helps them work more efficiently and achieve desirable task performance. Taking charge is characterized as risky McAllister et al.
A previous study notes that challenging the status quo, which is one of the important aims of taking charge, is likely to annoy the leaders and generate negative career consequences Detert and Edmondson, Morrison and Phelps suggest that two key judgments determining the decision to take charge are assessments of likely success and likely consequences. Specifically, frequent feedback-seeking allows employees to acquire information that helps them identify work-related problems accurately and function productively Ashford et al. This can improve their possibility of bringing about organizational functional change successfully.
As such, employees are likely to underestimate the potential risks and believe they are more likely to be successful if they take charge Morrison and Phelps, Similar to taking charge, voice behavior is characterized as risky because it often challenges authority and reveals negative aspects that others avoid mentioning Detert and Burris, ; Venkataramani and Tangirala, ; Morrison, ; Maynes and Podsakoff, Before making the decision to carry out voice behavior, employees should not only have the ability to notice the potential problems i.
This is because feedback-seeking can help employees build all-round communication channels through which they can access solid and comprehensive information resources, such as knowledge, material, and expertise sharing between peers Ashford, ; Ashford et al. Accessing these resources means that employees see things from a more comprehensive perspective. They are likely to have greater opportunity to discover upcoming problems or inefficient or inappropriate activities and subsequently come up with solutions Morrison, They can feel greater personal control over voice.
As a result, their perceived self-efficacy and safety of voice may increase. In the present study, drawing on social exchange theory Blau, ; Emerson, , we argue that employees are likely to develop high-quality social exchange relationships with the leaders under the management of empowering leaders. Given that the new demands include shared responsibility for the supervisors, employees may have to improve their abilities to behave in the context of a team.
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We collected the data from a logistics company located in northern China. This survey involved employees and their immediate supervisors from 32 workgroups. Participants voluntarily participated in this survey without receiving any specific rewards.
We prepared separate questionnaires for supervisors and subordinates to minimize the common method bias; supervisor participants and subordinate participants completed their questionnaires, respectively. To ensure confidentiality, we provided a return envelope with seal tape for each respondent. We sent two e-mails to remind each employee to seal the finished questionnaire in the envelope and to return it at a company-wide meeting 2 weeks later.
At the meeting, one of the researchers placed a secure box outside the venue and instructed the participants to put their sealed questionnaires into the designated box. As a result, 32 supervisor questionnaires and subordinate questionnaires were returned i. The final samples of subordinate respondents were predominantly male Most of them held bachelor degrees The average age of the participants was Rates of missing data ranged from 0 to 0. All survey instruments were originally constructed in English.
Following Brislin , we translated them into Chinese by performing a standard translation and back-translation procedure. Empowering leadership was measured using the item scale developed by Ahearne et al. Feedback-seeking behavior was measured using the 5-item scale developed by VandeWalle et al. Task performance was measured using the 7-item scale developed by Williams and Anderson Taking charge was measured using the item scale developed by Morrison and Phelps Voice was measured using the 6-item scale developed by LePine and Van Dyne Specifically, gender was correlated with taking charge and educational level was correlated with taking charge and task performance.
Based on these results, gender and educational level were controlled for in the mediation model. First, we performed a confirmatory factor analysis CFA to test the adequacy of our measurement model. The assumptions of CFA were specified as recommended by Hau et al. The assumptions of SEM were specified as follows as recommended by Hau et al. Previous literatures argue that fairly large samples are needed both at individual and group levels to conduct multi-level analyses Hox, For example, Kreft , Unpublished suggests that the samples should consist of more than 30 groups, with more than 30 individuals in each group.
Considering that our sample size did not meet these criteria, one level of statistical analysis was adopted in this study. Measurement models were re-specified based on modification indices to meet currently accepted criteria. After establishing the adequate fit of our measurement model, we tested our hypotheses using SEM.
Hypotheses 2, 3, and 4 were supported. H5a, H5b, and H5c were therefore supported. The results support our hypotheses, revealing that: 1 empowering leadership positively relates to feedback-seeking behavior; 2 feedback-seeking behavior positively relates to task performance, taking charge, and voice; and 3 feedback-seeking behavior mediates the relationships between empowering leadership and task performance, taking charge, and voice. Our findings offer several theoretical contributions to the empowering leadership and feedback-seeking literatures.
Previous studies have emphasized the importance of leaders encouraging the feedback-seeking behavior subordinates, such as authentic leadership Qian et al. Our findings fill this gap and show that employees are more motivated to engage in feedback-seeking behavior under the management of empowering leaders. Previous studies have shown that employees who frequently seek feedback gain better task performance Whitaker et al.
Our findings advance Whitaker et al. Our findings concerning the relationship between feedback-seeking and taking charge and voice also extends current knowledge of the consequences of feedback-seeking Whitaker and Levy, ; Ashford et al. Additionally, previous scholars have identified three types of proactive behaviors and call for future researchers to investigate the relationships between different proactive behaviors Parker and Collins, As a response to Parker and Collins call, our finding suggests that feedback-seeking behavior, as a proactive person-environment fit behavior, enhances the two proactive work behaviors, i.
This finding contributes to the integration of proactive behaviors Parker and Collins, Third, our findings demonstrate that feedback-seeking behavior fully mediates the relationships between empowering leadership and task performance, taking charge, and voice. Though previous studies have demonstrated that empowering leadership is associated with voice or taking charge Yoon, ; Li et al.
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Indeed, prior findings with regard to full or partial mediating roles in the relationship between empowering leadership and extra-role behavior is contradictory e. For example, Raub and Robert found that psychological empowerment fully mediates the relationship between empowering leadership and challenging extra-role behaviors. In Yoon paper, however, the relationship of empowering leadership and voice behavior is partially mediated by psychological empowerment. That is why previous scholars identify the direct relationships between empowering leadership, voice, and taking charge Yoon, ; Li et al.
However, just having reasons is not enough when employees engage in risky behaviors McAllister et al. Employees must have ability and confidence to engage in these extra-role behaviors. Feedback-seeking behaviors helps them gain work-related information Ashford et al.
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Although Baron and Kenny suggest that full mediation is the most powerful proof of the existence of a mediating effect, the distinction between complete and partial mediation is only one of the ways of verbal descriptions of the effect size of the mediational models Preacher and Kelley, In fact, this does not mean that direct effects must not exist in fact. Actually, Preacher and Kelley argued that the notion of full mediation should be abandoned and all mediations be treated as partial mediations.
Thus, we should interpret the results of this mediational model with caution. Fourth, scholars began to emphasize the importance of examining feedback-seeking as a critical mediating mechanism Ashford et al. By using social exchange theory, this study provides a new theoretical lens for understanding the mediating roles of feedback seeking. When recruiting and selecting managers, organizations should pay close attention to the personality traits of candidates in light of recent discoveries in the field of empowering leadership Li et al.
For example, prior studies argue that individuals who have a high need for achievement tend to fail to empower Li et al. In terms of training and encouraging managers to be empowering, organizations may require managers to participate in executive education programs or attend leadership centers and introduce empowering leadership behaviors into the performance evaluation system Amundsen et al. Second, our findings indicate that feedback-seeking behavior has positive influences on task performance, taking charge, and voice, and mediates the relationships between empowering leadership and these outcomes.
In terms of employee recruitment, organizations can take individual differences associated with feedback-seeking behavior into account, such as feedback orientation Dahling et al. Additionally, when performing empowering behaviors to cultivate follower proactivity and performance improvement, supervisors should also take efforts to develop a supportive feedback environment Dahling et al.
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For instance, supervisors can consistently provide specific, credible, and high-quality information for effective performance feedback Dahling et al. There are several limitations that require further exploration. However, given the cross-sectional nature of this study, we cannot make definitive conclusions of this causality. It is possible that this causal relationship is reversed. For instance, those followers who frequently ask their leaders for feedback are likely to obtain more shared information from their subordinates.
Future researchers can use longitudinal, experimental, or quasi-experimental designs to address this issue. For example, researchers can collect time-lagged data at several separate points in time Finkel, ; Podsakoff et al. They may measure empowering leadership, feedback-seeking, and the control variables at Time1 and collect the data for task performance, taking charge, and voice 2 weeks later i.
Second, we tested our hypotheses using only using data collected from a single company in a Chinese context, which may limit the generalizability of the present findings. We encourage future scholars to replicate these findings by administrating this survey in other cultures or organizations.
Third, we only included the mediating mechanisms in the hypothesized theoretical model without taking potential boundary conditions into consideration. Previous empowering leadership studies placed particular emphasis on examining cultural values e. Fourth, in this paper, we mainly interpret the hypothesized model according to social exchange theory Blau, ; Emerson, Future studies may provide a new lens by applying other theories. In addition, the present study focuses on behavioral mechanisms to explain the relationship between empowering leadership and outcomes. In future studies, researchers may investigate potential psychological mechanisms and compare the different effects.
However, in order to distinguish the predictive effects of empowering leadership from other leaderships, future researchers may control for relevant leadership styles, such as transformational leadership Ou et al. Based on social exchange theory Blau, ; Emerson, , the present study examines the potential consequences of empowering leadership on employees by investigating feedback-seeking behavior as a mediator. Our findings contribute to the ongoing research into empowering leadership and feedback-seeking, as well as the integration of proactive behaviors i.
Additionally, our findings provide empirical support and theoretical lens for explicating the mediating roles of feedback-seeking from a social exchange perspective.