When you empower an individual, you give them the authority to make a decision and do something.
In the context of work, empowered employees are more engaged because they feel co-workers trust them and, as humans, we naturally want to repay that trust.
Can Everyone Really Be Trusted?
When you've worked in traditional hierarchical structures, trust issues come pretty naturally.
We all know stories of theft in a warehouse that needed additional security and processes to get things under control.
However, companies that implement self-organization need not worry about this.
Yes, some people may take advantage and abuse your trust at first.
But in an organization that has successfully built a culture of trust and employee empowerment, such behavior is rare.
Because, an individual is naturally inclined to conform and follow the example of the group. It's in our nature. That's how we've survived this long as a species.
In self-organized teams, individuals who take advantage are quickly identified and moved on quickly if they don't fit in to the culture of the organization.
Does Everyone Thrive With More Autonomy?
Let's look at a few situations and how self-managed organizations may want to handle them.
Some people simply prefer being told what to do at work.
Note, however, that that's usually a sign that they're disinterested with the work at hand.
You might want to address that and investigate how you can make their life at work more interesting and engaging.
Not everyone can handle the same degree of autonomy.
A 19-year old intern needs guidance. Someone taking up a new role also needs guidance.
While organizations should promote empowerment, trust and autonomy, they should also provide support, coaching and training.