Disentangling empowerment: Considering the role of employee perceptions in adaptive selling

Michele Rigolizzo, Kevin J. Johnson, Jean François Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As more jobs require employees to continually learn and adapt, empowering employees to adopt learning goals becomes a competitive advantage. Although research has identified key leadership behaviors that empower employees, the relationship between managers and empowered employees is ongoing and dynamic. Therefore, it is important to understand how key leadership behaviors interact with employees in their current state of empowerment to influence learning and performance. In this paper, we draw from self-determination theory to argue that the way employees perceive a given leadership behavior will differ by dimension of empowerment, and these perceptions impact their intrinsic motivation to learn. Specifically, employees who are high in competence and impact will perceive the leadership behavior of goal clarity as controlling, and be less likely to set learning goals, while those who are high in autonomy and meaning will perceive the same behavior as supportive, and be more likely to set learning goals. In a time-lagged study of 349 salespeople, we find that goal clarity acts as a boundary condition by weakening the relationship between empowerment and learning goal orientation (LGO) for those high on the competence and impact dimensions. As hypothesized, we find that the same behavior of goal clarity actually strengthens the relationship for those high on the autonomy and meaning dimensions. Further, we provide theoretical and empirical evidence that LGO mediates the relationship between empowerment and adaptive selling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-61
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


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