The concept of empowerment is often identified as a foundational element of successful management. Of course it is, it sounds so supportive and healthy, we include it in our mission statements and employee handbooks, yet how often have we felt empowered in the workplace?

For an employee, or a client for that matter, to feel empowered, we, as the holders of the power must step aside. Not just step aside and hover, but truly get out of the way.

“Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.” –Gloria Steinem

 It’s a fallacy that empowerment can be given. Ms. Steinem is correct; it must be taken. We feel empowered when we have a visceral experience of affecting our environment. If someone “helps” me, I am not doing it… I needed help. And, here in this country, the land of the rugged individual, most don’t want “help.”

For example, if you want to bring a workplace to its knees creating confusion and fear, just rearrange personal objects with the employees’ cubes. It will take management days to get productivity back on track.

 Remember, with every relationship, a coworker, boss or client, a power structure exists. We can be empowering, give up some control and step aside while other humans take their power. Or, mandate others be subordinate to your power.

Within best practices as a clinician, the former is most acceptable, but how often is it practiced?