Friday, January 9, 2015


Douglas Stuart Chudleigh, School of Human and Organizational Development

At the heart of human achievement is the individual person who has engendered a sense of empowerment. Society leverages the power of individuals to increase productivity, creativity and innovation; this is done through the enactment of organizations. The challenge with organizations is that they institutionalize (Selznick, 1949); in this the organization becomes more important than those who constitute it or whom it serves. Many organizations empower some and disempower others (Bridges, 2000; Cobb, 2007; Gregory, 2006). Ironically, disempowerment of those within the organization has become the hallmark of modern management (Bolman & Deal, 2008).

Critical awareness of the need for empowered employees to enhance the effectiveness of organizations is growing (Lawler, Mohrman, & Benson, 2001). As a result of increased competition due to globalization, companies need to engage and harness the energy, creativity, knowledge and passion of every employee to be successful. Leading organizations accomplish this by empowering their people to take initiative. They do this without prodding to serve collective interest, without being micro-managed; they empower members to act like valued shareholders of the firm (O’Toole & Lawler, 2006). How to accomplish this is a key question.

Negotiation is a ubiquitous tool for gaining understanding, creating meaning, organizing collaboration, and coordinating action socially. It is created within as a social construct through communication and exists within every type of human relationship. This is a study about empowerment. In this study, I examine the lived experiences of empowerment from the act of negotiation of people who act within social organizations.

This paper is structured as a two-layer exploration of empowerment through negotiation. The first layer examines some of my salient experiences of this phenomenon. The second explores the shared experiences of eight co-researchers. These experiences are analysed and the meanings induced by them are organized into a set of pragmatic models, which are intended to be useable as a tool for understanding and affecting one’s sense of empowerment through the act of negotiation.

Keywords: empowerment, disempowerment, negotiation, interpersonal negotiations, phenomenology, organization studies, social psychology, systems, complexity, and chaos theory.

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