To empower or not to empower, that's the question: Using an empowerment process approach to explain employees' workplace proactivity

M.J.H. Coun, Pascale Peters, R.J. Blomme, Jaap Schaveling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The study investigates to what extent empowering HRM practices (i.e., workplace flexibility, professional autonomy, and access to knowledge via ICT) and empowering leadership have the potential to motivate employees in displaying workplace proactivity in NWW contexts. The study builds on the empowerment theory to gain a better understanding of how employees are able to make choices in order to achieve the goals set in their work and how leadership can support this. A field study was conducted in four subsidiaries of a large Dutch bank active in the financial sector. In line with expectations, positive relationships were found between professional autonomy, access to knowledge via ICT and empowering leadership, on the one hand, and psychological empowerment, on the other. Also, in line with expectations, a positive relationship was found between psychological empowerment and workplace proactivity. Moreover, as hypothesized, psychological empowerment partly mediated the relationship between the HRM practices and empowering leadership and workplace proactivity. However, autonomy had a direct, negative effect on workplace proactivity. Also workplace flexibility was neither directly nor indirectly associated with workplace proactivity. Finally, HRM and leadership can be viewed as complementary as they combine different perspectives for employees in order to display proactive workplace behaviour. In conclusion, the empowerment process approach helped to disentangle the motivating elements that foster workplace proactivity in modern workplaces.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2021


  • Empowering leadership
  • workplace proactivity
  • new ways of working
  • psychological empowerment
  • workplace flexibility
  • professional autonomy
  • access to knowledge
  • HRM practices


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