Purpose - Despite calls for empowerment, employees often do not feel their managers assist and support them. Traditional views of power as limited and involving overcoming resistance may seriously obstruct empowerment efforts. Design/methodology/approach - About 60 male and 60 female undergraduates majoring in management and recruited from universities in Guangzhou, China, were randomly assigned to six conditions, 10 males and 10 females in each condition. They prepared for the interaction, then interacted with an employees, and then completed measures of the dependent measures. Findings - Results from an experiment conducted in China indicate that participants used their capacity of power to assist, encourage, and in other ways empower employees when they viewed power as expandable rather than independent or limited. They also responded to the needs of the employee by providing assistance to low performing employees but they developed an ongoing relationship and felt their power was reinforced with high performing employees. Research limitations/implications - Results were interpreted as suggesting that, even in high distant power societies like China, beliefs that power is expandable and cooperative goals both reinforce leader empowering. Practical implications - The tendency to confound power and competition may have important organizational implications. The prevalence of viewing power as limited may be an underlying reason why developing a cooperative, supportive relationship between managers and employees appears to be so difficult. Originality/value - This study demonstrates experimentally that viewing power as expandable can help managers actually empower employees and also suggests these findings apply in China.
- Performance management