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Empowerment effects across cultures

An Erratum to this article was published on 16 July 2004

Abstract

Three studies examined cross-cultural variations in empowerment effects. Study 1 investigated whether Hofstede's power distance scores moderated the effect of job autonomy on job satisfaction using World Values Survey data on 33 nations. Study 2 surveyed frontline hotel employees from Canada and PRC to investigate the moderating role of power distance at the individual level. In Study 3, hotel management students from Canada and PRC were asked to play the role of a frontline employee, who had to handle a special customer request, in a scenario experiment. These studies show consistently that the cultural value of power distance moderates the effect of empowerment on job satisfaction. Moreover, willingness to accept and exercise the discretionary power allowed by management and desire to satisfy customer needs and wants are two employee conditions that are essential for the successful implementation of the empowerment approach.

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Figure 1
Figure 2

Notes

  1. We also correlated, at the individual level in each of the 42 nations, the scores of job autonomy with variables that are expected to exhibit substantial or null relationships. Job autonomy is related to pride in work (median r=0.46) and is related moderately to a broader feeling of self-control measured by perceived life control (median r=0.22). All coefficients are significant at P<0.05. Discriminant validity is shown when job autonomy was found to be unrelated to a close, but different, construct – whether or not one suffered interference from authorities. Job autonomy was not correlated to choice to follow orders (median r=0.02) and respect for authority (median r=0.05).

  2. This can be understood intuitively as the following:

    or

    Given that b1 is 0.30 and b2 is −0.003, the value of (b1+b2 × power distance) approaches zero when the power distance score is 104.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (Ref. No. 4030/00 H) awarded to the first and second authors. We thank Ilan Vertinsky, Dora Lau, the departmental editor Kwok Leung, and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this paper.

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Correspondence to Kevin Au.

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Accepted by Tom Brewer; outgoing Editor, 28 September 2003.

An Erratum for this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400101

Appendix A: Measurement items

Appendix A: Measurement items

Customer orientation (Han et al., 1998)

Our business objectives are driven by customer satisfaction.

We closely monitor and assess our level of commitment in serving customers' needs.

Our competitive advantage is based on understanding customers' needs.

Business strategies are driven by the goal of increasing customer value.

We pay close attention to after-sales service.

Job satisfaction (Hartline and Ferrell, 1996)

Overall speaking, I am satisfied with my job.

I am satisfied with my organisation's policies.

Power distance (Brockner et al., 2001)

People at lower levels in the organisation should carry out the requests of people at higher levels without questions.

People at higher levels in organisations have a responsibility to make important decisions for people below them.

Once a top-level executive makes a decision, people working for the company should not question it.

In work-related matters, managers have a right to expect obedience from their subordinates.

A company's rules should not be broken, not even when the employee thinks it is in the company's best interest.

Self-determination (Spreitzer, 1995)

I have significant autonomy in determining how I do my job.

I can decide on my own how to go about doing my work.

I have considerable opportunity for independence and freedom in how I do my job.

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Hui, M., Au, K. & Fock, H. Empowerment effects across cultures. J Int Bus Stud 35, 46–60 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400067

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Keywords

  • empowerment
  • job satisfaction
  • power distance
  • services
  • China