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I would argue that when one is personally empowered, he or she has certain key characteristics that translate well to the workplace.
Because personal empowerment can means many things, and different things to different people, let’s take a quick look at a few defining markers.
I found a general definition of empowerment I liked on Wikipedia: “Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, or economic strength of individuals and communities.”
So it’s not just about empowering us as individuals, but also about helping the groups we belong to.
Increasing our personal strength on multiple levels is good for all of us, as Latinos, if we use this newfound power in the right way.
Confidence in one’s own abilities. When you know what you’re doing, and have ease and grace in the skill sets you have, it allows you to be more flexible and fluid. You know where you can add value, and feel sure you can accomplish what is asked of you in that arena. This confidence gives you the ability to ask for what you want, and have a productive working relationship with others. This makes you more valuable to employers, or to prospective clients!
Access to power, authority and influence. This is important because – as we’ll discuss later – no one ever is successful alone. It takes a big group of individuals to contribute to one person’s success. The more good people you have in your circle, the more ability you have to help yourself – and to help others!
Ability to make one’s own decisions. This is not just about being able to choose how you spend your work day (although that’s included), but also about knowing how and when you’re making the larger career choices. Do you have the ability to choose the projects you work on, the flexibility to take time off to have a child or care for a sick parent, or even the ability to get a raise or a bonus for your direct reports? When you know you have some control over your destiny, it also allows you to relax a bit. And aren’t we more productive when we’re not stressed out?
Employing your strength when dealing with others. I’m not talking about running roughshod over those around you. Rather, this is about sticking to your values, guarding your boundaries, and making sure you’re being treated well. Sure, we’re not always going to enjoy the way everyone at work treats us, but overall, if you are sure of your own strength, it protects you from inadvertently getting involved in situations you don’t want to find yourself in – whether it be the middle of the office gossip pool, or worse, under investigation for unethical behavior.
Having a sense of connectedness and kindness. Empowerment also allows us to see the bigger picture. Knowing how others can assist you, and how you can reach out to them not only gives us a sense of security, but also lets us know we’re contributing to our communities.
While we can laud empowerment for creating a better workplace for all – with more efficiency and productiveness, and boosting employee morale, what about the ‘dark side’ of the use of power?
Next post, we’ll be talking about what empowerment is not.
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.