Humanistic Psychology Approach to Employee Empowerment

Research Topic

The proposed research is concerned with employee empowerment (EE). In particular, the varied methods of EE and their relative effectiveness are going to be studied in the view of humanistic psychology (HP). The preliminary aim of the study consists in defining the reasons for the different levels of effectiveness in different EE methods from the psychological point of view.

General Psychology and Humanistic Psychology. Explanation of the Choice

My specialization is general psychology, which may be termed as a branch of psychology that describes and studies human mental processes and behavior in general together with their roots and consequences (Mangal, 2013, pp. 3-5). In other words, it is a rather wide field of academic interest, and I had an opportunity of choosing a subject from a broad range of possibilities. I ended up choosing EE and its effectiveness because, in my opinion, this topic will help me to understand human behavior in a particular environment (workplace) and as a response to specific stimuli (EE methods). Apart from that, I would like to point out that EE is a rapidly developing and popular; it is widely practiced and actively researched, which makes it both timely and practically applicable (Maynard, Luciano, D’Innocenzo, Mathieu, & Dean, 2014, p. 1244). What is more, while most studies emphasize the significance of EE for positive psychological and performance outcomes (can be seen in the works by Orgambídez-Ramos and Borrego-Alés (2014) or Maynard et al. (2014) as well as Voegtlin, Boehm, and Bruch (2015) and others), they are less likely to point out differences in outcomes and the reasons for these differences.

Therefore, the topic is aligned with my specialization area and is a modern and developing but still underresearched area of study.

Preliminary Thoughts

From the preliminary research, it can be suggested that at least three types of EE methods exist: those aimed at the organization (discretion type), at the leader (leadership type), and at the employee (psychological type), as suggested by Fock, Hui, Au, and Bond (2012). It should be pointed out that this taxonomy appears to have been created by the authors: while psychological and leadership EE seem to be conventional terms, discretion EE was described as the structural one by Orgambídez-Ramos and Borrego-Alés (2014). Apart from that, the effects of EE are more or less conventionally divided into psychological and behavioral ones, which suits the aim of the proposed study (Boudrias, Gaudreau, Savoie, & Morin, 2009; Boudrias, Morin, & Lajoie, 2014). As it has been pointed out, the bulk of EE research does not provide the evidence on the comparative effectiveness of EE methods, but some attempts have been made in this respect. Fock et al. (2012) endeavored to connect the outcomes of different EE methods to the cultural differences of the employees. Similarly, Boudrias et al. (2009) discuss various results of one type of EE. They conclude that leadership EE is more likely to influence psychological empowerment, and the latter tends to affect employee behavior. It can be suggested that the mental processes and behavioral patterns of employees are of direct consequence for the successfulness of EE methods; therefore, EE research will benefit from a psychological perspective.

Employee Empowerment, Current Research, and Humanistic Psychology

There are surprisingly few studies that connect HP and HR, but the link between HP and EE is visible nonetheless. For example, the study by Wilson and Madsen (2008) never names EE, but most of the practices and aspects of HR that the authors mention in connection to HP are either methods or components of EE that represent the three types proposed by Fock et al. (2012). An example is employee involvement opportunity described by Wilson and Madsen (2008): it is one of the discretion methods of EE. Similarly, Arnaud and Wasieleski (2013) describe a humanistic approach to HR that includes EE and exhibits the signs of HP influence. Apart from that, the study of HP and EE theory and practice demonstrates that they operate similar terminology and values sets: both are concerned with various aspects of self-concept (in particular, self-esteem) and motivation, both research learning (education) and its connections to psychological well-being; both value the individual and are aimed at the individual (Boudrias et al., 2009; DeRobertis, 2013; Mruk, 2008; Wilson & Madsen, 2008). In other words, while the connection between HP and EE does not occur in scientific research too often, it is obvious. Apart from that, the rejection of determinism by HP allows a deeper understanding of the aspects that contribute to and interfere with EE and compels to investigate them in a holistic manner (Ellis, Abrams, & Abrams, 2009, p. 310). To sum up, HP approach is likely to be able to explain the psychological reasons behind EE successfulness and guide the research towards a more comprehensive investigation of the phenomenon due to its philosophical specifics.

Apart from being a valid explanatory tool, HP will direct the current study in the terms of the methods of research. Just like HP, the proposed investigation will employ qualitative methods, which are more likely to be suitable for the detection, determination, analysis, and description of the varied psychological reasons of EE effectiveness that are not always quantitatively processable (DeRobertis, 2013). In particular, the HP-promoted qualitative approach of phenomenology (that presupposes regarding the phenomenon of EE through the eyes of the population that will be studied: employees and possibly employers) may turn out to be handy (Ellis et al., 2009, p. 316).


Arnaud, S., & Wasieleski, D. (2013). Corporate Humanistic Responsibility: Social Performance Through Managerial Discretion of the HRM. Journal of Business Ethics, 120(3), 313-334.

Boudrias, J., Gaudreau, P., Savoie, A., & Morin, A. (2009). Employee Empowerment. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 30(7), 625-638.

Boudrias, J., Morin, A. S., & Lajoie, D. (2014). Directionality of the Associations Between Psychological Empowerment and Behavioral Involvement: A Longitudinal Autoregressive Cross-Lagged Analysis. Journal Of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 87(3), 437-463.

DeRobertis, E. (2013). Humanistic Psychology: Alive in the 21st Century? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53(4), 419-437.

Ellis, A., Abrams, M., & Abrams, L. (2009). Personality theories. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Fock, H., Hui, M., Au, K., & Bond, M. (2012). Moderation Effects of Power Distance on the Relationship Between Types of Empowerment and Employee Satisfaction. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44(2), 281-298.

Mangal, S. (2013). General psychology. New Delhi, India: Sterling Publishers Private Ltd.

Maynard, M., Luciano, M., D’Innocenzo, L., Mathieu, J., & Dean, M. (2014). Modeling Time-Lagged Reciprocal Psychological Empowerment–Performance Relationships. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 99(6), 1244-1253.

Mruk, C. (2008). The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Potential Common Ground for Humanistic Positive Psychology and Positivistic Positive Psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 36(2), 143-158.

Orgambídez-Ramos, A., & Borrego-Alés, Y. (2014). Empowering Employees: Structural Empowerment as Antecedent of Job Satisfaction in University Settings. Psychological Thought, 7(1), 28-36.

Voegtlin, C., Boehm, S., & Bruch, H. (2015). How to Empower Employees: Using Training to Enhance Work Units’ Collective Empowerment. International Journal of Manpower, 36(3), 354-373.

Wilson, I., & Madsen, S. R. (2008). The Influence of Maslow’s Humanistic Views on an Employee’s Motivation to Learn. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 13(2), 46-62. Web.

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