Series of Dissertation
01 / 2013

Sut I Wong Humborstad:
Congruence in empowerment expectations: On subordinates’ responses to disconfirmed experiences and to leaders’ unawareness of their empowerment expectations

ISSN: 1502-2099
ISBN: 978-82-8247-075-9
No. of pages: 174
Price: Nok 250

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By incorporating the role-sending and -taking processes from the role set theory, this dissertation conceptualizes an empowerment perception gap framework. The empowerment perception gap is defined as discrepancies between leaders’ and subordinates’ expectations and perceptions of empowerment. This empowerment gap model captures four potential discrepancies: Gap 1, Gap 2, Gap 3, and Gap 4. Gap 1 refers to the empowerment expectation discrepancy between subordinates’ sent empowerment expectations and leaders’ received empowerment expectations. Gap 2 represents the discrepancy between subordinates’ perceived experiences of leader-empowering behaviors and their expectations of how these behaviors should be. Gap 3 is concerned with the discrepancy between leaders’ received subordinate-empowerment expectations and their enacted empowering behaviors. Lastly, Gap 4 refers to the self-other discrepancy on the experiences of leader-empowering behaviors.
With this conceptual model, I sought to comprehend the conditions under which incongruence can occur in the leader-subordinate role set process in the face of empowerment by delineating four suggested gaps. Three empirical studies were conducted to examine the associations between subordinates’ attitudinal and behavioral responses with Gap 1 and 2, revolving around the notion of empowerment expectations. With empowerment expectation as the central tenet in this dissertation, I sought to gain insight into the processes of role sending with respect to empowerment. Empowerment expectations are considered a crucial evaluative component that influences how subordinates value empowerment (Paul, Niehoff, & Turnley, 2000). Investigations on empowerment expectations may provide an important initial understanding of how the empowerment gaps could occur in the first place.

The first study, “Mutuality in leader-subordinate empowerment expectations: Its impact on role ambiguity and intrinsic motivation,” addresses Gap 1 and investigates the relationships between leaders’ awareness of subordinate empowerment expectations and subordinates’ perceived role ambiguity and intrinsic motivation. The study revealed that role ambiguity and intrinsic motivation vary differentially depending on whether leaders’ and subordinates’ ratings are congruent or incongruent. This study contributes to the literature on the subject by shedding light on the dilemma of the trade-off between role ambiguity and intrinsic motivation in the process of empowerment (Cordery, Morrison, Wright, & Wall, 2010; Wall, Cordery, & Clegg, 2002). In doing so, this study provides theoretical and practical implications to the empowering leadership in minimizing the dilemma of role ambiguity versus job motivation.

The second study, “The empowerment expectation-perception gap: An examination of three alternative models” looks at the discrepancy between expectations and perceived experiences of empowerment by subordinates. By incorporating them with met-expectations theory, the study suggests three alternative models in order to not only investigate the existence of the proposed gap, but also to examine the potential directions of its associations with subordinate job satisfaction and psychological empowerment. Through this exploration, this study contributes to the development of insights into how subordinates internalize the empowering leadership when their expectations are met and when they fall short. As such, this study sought to extend our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that link empowering leadership, job satisfaction, and psychological empowerment by addressing the roles of empowerment expectations. This study also helps to pinpoint practical implications of how empowerment expectations should be managed in organizations.

The third study, “Leaders’ awareness of subordinate empowerment expectations: Influence on subordinate upward influence behaviors,” explored how leaders’ awareness of subordinate empowerment expectations influences subordinates’ engagement in upward-influence behaviors. This study also examined the roles of leader-subordinate interpersonal coupling structure and subordinate intrapersonal adaptive regulation as boundary conditions of these relationships. Consistent with the role set theory, the results demonstrate that subordinates as role senders become more active in upward-influence behaviors when their empowerment expectations are less recognized. Moreover, leader-subordinate task interdependence and subordinate self-efficacy positively moderate these relationships. This study contributes to the literature on the subject by providing insight into the role sending process and explanations for the boundaries of empowering leadership. Moreover, this study contributes to greater insights into how being empowering and being empowered could be interlocked, potentially opening up a wider field for empowerment research studies.