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"The Empowering Work Environment"

(For individual use only, not to be reproduced or used in any way without permission)
About the Quiz.

To remain competitive, organizations are abandoning the traditional hierarchical command-and-control management style in favor of establishing a work environment that advocates employee empowerment at all levels. To establish this new environment entails encouraging employee responsibility, accountability, self-management, trust and recognition; it requires leaders who are willing to let go of their role as bosses and take on roles as coaches and facilitators. Achieving this change is not easy. Some deeply ingrained obstacles and beliefs about leadership, management, employees and modern organizations must be confronted and challenged.

The empowering work environment requires a set of values and beliefs that must be embraced and practiced by all levels of management. This quiz tests your readiness to accept an empowering work environment by evaluating the degree to which you hold these values and beliefs.


Take the quiz without looking at the answers, but when you are reviewing the answers, the questions and answers are "linked" so that you can easily move back and forth between them. When you've totaled your scores, find out how to interpret the score.

1. In evaluating/recommending three candidates for promotion into a middle level managerial position, you believe:

  A. Past achievements are the best predictors of a person's future success.
  B. The person's ability to coach, train, and lead a high-performance team is as important as past performance results.
  C. The candidate's ability to fit in with the current middle management team is a top priority.

2. You are composing next year's budget. What criteria do you use to determine allocations for training employees?

A. Fund business and leadership training for managers.
B. Fund literacy and basic skills training for hourly and non-exempt employees.
C. Fund basic business and leadership training for all employees.

3. Your organization is revising its management appraisal system. Whose feedback should be considered when evaluating a manager's performance?

A. To evaluate a manager's performance, collect feedback from everyone-the manager's boss, subordinates and peers and any customers and/or suppliers who do business with the manager.
B. Only the manager's boss and key leaders with whom the manager interacts should provide feedback on his or her performance.
C. Management performance appraisals should be eliminated. There are too many variables affecting performance that are beyond the manager's control (the competition, demographic shifts, inflation, etc.).

4. You have made a very costly error that has resulted in extensive budget reductions for your department. How do you explain the reductions to your group?

A. Explain that the budget has been cut; refrain from telling them the real reason, unless specifically asked.
B. Explain the whole truth up front, including what the error was and why it occurred.
C. Create a reason that the employees would be likely to tolerate to explain why the budget was cut (e.g., revenue projections have decreased).

5. Your organization invested heavily in a new technology that will change the way work is done in your group. In implementing the changes you:

A. Get input from the technology experts and your management team, then prepare the implementation plan yourself.
B. Have the plan developed by one of your managers and, if appropriate, have the union representative work with the manager.
C. Bring together a team of individuals who will be directly affected by the technology and ask them to create the implementation plan.

6. When evaluating a department's performance, how much importance should be placed on individual performance; how much on the team's effort?

A. 20 percent on individual accomplishment and 80 percent on team accomplishments.
B. 100 percent on individual accomplishment.
C. 80 percent on individual accomplishment and 20 percent on team accomplishments.

7. You have been called into an emergency budget meeting and asked to reduce your department's budget by 5 percent. Which of the following items would you cut?

A. Training expenses.
B. Your salary and the salary of other managers.
C. Employee Recognition Awards.

8. You have been asked to identify the obstacles to implementing an employee-empowering environment at your company. Where do you start?

A. With a study to determine who is causing the obstacles.
B. With the employees because empowerment obstacles are 80% employee controlled and 20% management controlled.
C. With the systems and practices controlled by management because empowerment obstacles are 80% management controlled and 20% employee controlled.

9. Which of the following best depicts how the role of the front line supervisor will develop in an employee-empowering environment?

A. The role of the supervisor will change and expand to include providing direction, developing teams and team members, coaching and training.
B. The supervisor will control and decide all the important decisions; other employees will be involved to varying degrees in decisions of lesser importance.
C. The role of the supervisor will be greatly reduced. Employees will be given control and will be able to make decisions in every aspect of their jobs.

10. How would you to describe the employee empowering work environment?

A. It is something for hourly employees.
B. It is a system based on shared values.
C. It is a series of training programs and quality circles.

11. How long do you think it will take to implement an employee-empowering environment?

A. 2 to 3 years.
B. Longer than 3 years and less than 10.
C. More than 10 years.

12. How do you typically refer to the people you work with?

A. As individuals, associates, and teammates.
B. As managers, subordinates, and employees.
C. As supervisors, labor, and support.

13. Which of the following are true statements about the employee-empowered environment?

A. The biggest barriers are created by rank and file.
B. The biggest barriers are created by management, primarily first-level supervision.
C. The results are quick and quantifiable after the process is implemented.


The Answers

Question 1

A= 0, B= 10, C= 5

The work environment should be composed of employees working together as a high performance team. An employee-empowered work environment maintains an energizing climate, one that motivates the team toward greatness. It will reinforce, recognize and reward the qualities of leadership, coaching and training.

Question 2

A= 5, B= 0, C= 10

All employees, regardless of job title, position or classification, need basic job skills. Limiting the training limits the overall pool of creative ideas.

Question 3

A= 10, B= 5, C= 0

To evaluate the overall effectiveness of the team leader, feedback from all stakeholders-those on the team and those who rely on the team-must be included. Subordinates, peers, customers and suppliers have a valuable perspective on the success of the team leader's efforts.

Question 4

A= 5, B=10, C=0

If a team leader can color the truth (euphemistically, lying), so can everyone else on the team. We don't like to work with liars so why should it be all right to lie to our teammates when it is convenient for us or for business. Accurate and honest information openly communicated is the goal, versus top management knowing everything, middle management a little bit and those at the bottom a few crumbs of information.

Question 5

A= 0, B= 5, C= 10

Trust the team members most affected by the problem to solve it. The "authority trap" snares managers or those in power into believing that they are the only and best source of solutions and decisions. Don't get caught in the trap!

Question 6

A= 10, B= 0, C= 5

A group full of individuals giving their best efforts can sink a company. Turning individual internal competition into a team collaboration is the goal.

Question 7

A= 0, B= 10, C= 5

Training is part of the solution, not the problem. Cutting management salaries in tough times sends a powerful message....employees are important.

Question 8

A=5, B=O, C=10

The true obstacle to creating an empowering work environment is management: management processes, policies and practices. Management created and reinforces the present organization; this is where the changes need to start.

Question 9 A=10, B=5, C=0

The role of the supervisor includes: developing the vision, establishing direction and boundaries, modeling the desired behaviors/actions, providing immediate feedback and resources, facilitating and coaching others toward continuous improvement and recognizing and reinforcing effort and success.

Question 10

A= 5, B= 10, C= 0

An empowering work environment is based on: how we treat our customers/clients/each other, leadership behaviors, our roles and responsibilities as employees, ethics, diversity and what opportunities employees can expect from the organization. These values become the criteria against which the appropriateness of all actions are evaluated; they can't be faked or limited to certain levels in the organization.

Question 11

A= 0, B= 5, C= 10

The journey to an employee-empowering environment is never-ending and constantly evolving-it is marked with increases in customer and employee expectations. It is a finish line that can never be reached; where victory is in the race not the finish line.

Question 12

A=10, B=0, C=5

Granted it is more than just titles, but managers who value and respect the people they work with refer to them as individuals, associates or team mates.

Question 13

A=0, B=10, C=5

More often than not, employees are advocates and supervisors are resistant.

Your Score

105 - 130 points: You are ready to embark upon the journey required to create and maintain an employee empowered environment. Your belief in high performance teams and leadership shines through your recognition of the value of training, development, and employee respect. It is now time to create an environment that encourages all employees to achieve their maximum potential. You don't have to wait for anyone; start by removing the barriers that prevent employees from exercising judgment and creativity in their work. Create a high-involvement process to address your company's values, goals, objectives, rewards system and communication patterns. Trust the process; you and your associates will be quick to define other areas to address along the route to an empowering environment.

80 - 100 points: You're not quite ready; your predominant values are the traditional views on management and management practices. These values foster a view of an employee-empowered work environment as something done to others, not as an internal commitment to go all the way. To change, expand your own awareness, skills and information:
* Learn to be a leader, coach, trainer, and team builder.
* Develop high-performance teams with high-performance team members.
* Find small successes within your organization and build upon them.
* Create a participative setting.
* Provide support to those in your organization who are true believers in this type of corporate culture.

Less than 75 points: You may be interested in employee empowerment because it is a fashionable thing to do.  If so, rethink your strategy. Any attempt to "fake it" will be met with employee mistrust and disdain. If you are interested in employee empowerment because you know it is right, go out and find this environment in action, talk to people who are doing it, see the benefits. Once you begin to believe, you can begin building an empowering environment.

About the Quiz

Published in Spirit, the magazine of Southwest Airlines March, 1992 by Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D., Carol A. Otto, Ph.D., and George M. Benskey. For more information call Dr. Matt Starcevich, CEO, Center for Coaching and Mentoring, Inc. (918) 333-6609.

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