Empowerment Inconsistencies in a Learning Culture LO26136

From: Peggy Stuart (pstuart@c2t2.ca)
Date: 02/15/01

Thanks Denham for your interesting post "Working ontologies" (LO26094)

"What the heck is an ontology??? A (shared) expression of belief, an
agreement on the terminology (and sometimes the meaning) for communication
and action. Ontologies serve to bound discourse, facilitate communication
within & across communities and networks, leverage action by gathering
agreement around values, objects, the way things are and what is 'out
there' that is important. Ontologies help to orientate new folks and act
as the stores for key learnings & distinctions accumulated through
experience. Ontologies have a large influence on identity and help with
the tacit transfer of context. Ontologies IMO are destined to become a
very influential part of knowledge work."

I had the opportunity to ask about 1/2 of my organisation what they
thought it meant to be "empowered", have "autonomy" and to "collaborate".
And I heard some really interesting and diverse definitions.

For empowerment, I received answers such as "empowerment is having the
ability to make changes within the scope of my responsibilities"
"empowerment gives me the confidence to do my job," "empowerment means I
don't have to report to anyone," and "empowerment means people can make
decisions with their supervisor's guidance."

What I realise now is that the most accepted or "true" definition of being
"empowered," at least in a business context, is not relevant. What is
relevant is that there is no agreement on the meaning of this term, which
significantly impacts the learning culture.

I see this as a problem since different interpretations of empowerment
leads to varying levels of empowerment. Person A will be more empowered
than Person B, which may lead to Person B resenting/envying Person A's job
flexibility. Person C may see her or his level of empowerment change when
she or he changes leaders/positions, depending on both the leader's and
employee's frame of reference. This can lead to feelings of being
"micromanaged" or feeling "lost" without the accustomed
structure/guidance. These inconsistencies lead to confusion, and may
subsequently lead to an employee's refusal to accept being empowered, all
of which will significantly impact the learning culture. (Note: this is
happening at my org. AFTER a job evaluation process where supervisors and
employees sat down and negotiated what EXACTLY they thought were their job

I would also hazard a guess that this is a common problem within most
organisations, especially those with more than two reporting "layers"

Does anyone have any suggestions? Any thoughts on how to operationalize
the concept of ontology in this context?




Peggy Stuart <pstuart@c2t2.ca>

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