University of Leicester
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Encountering empowerment rhetoric : assumptions, choices and dilemmas for individuals and organisations

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:46 authored by Brendon Harvey
This study emerged from professional practice into a critique of the notion of empowerment: a generative inquiry into the lived embodied experience of individuals, the 'nitty-gritty' of people in time, in particular locations, across different employment sectors. It focuses on the conjunctions and disjunctions of these employees, the voices of front-line practitioners, in making choices, as well as the dilemmas that they face in doing this, both from inside and outside of work. Competing discourses are identified shaping, and being shaped by, the managers of the trees companies at the heart of this research inquiry.;Moreover, this research uncovered systemic issues arising from where such empowerment rhetorics derived and what they are acting upon in terms of people's lives within these complex systems. This has resulted in distinctive action at an individual and organisational level through the utilisation of critically reflexive action research.;This study is not purely a linear progression. A cyclical, critically reflexive methodology, my own 'story' of being empowered and disempowered whilst participating with others in this inquiry, has both deepened and enriched the perspectives offered. Therefore, this research offers an alternative perspective of empowerment as well as in relation to writing about empowerment, a complexity of perspectives explored through the use of literary, artistic and analytical forms that display the depth and richness of participant experience. My research therefore moves beyond the ethnographic studies of management to embrace the shifting sense of lives beyond the workplace, and the complexity of choice making through individual narratives across different sectors. At the same time it is centred in the embodied sense of lived experience that is missing from the critique of management offered by Alvesson and Wilmott [1992, 1998], and others [Knights, 1992. Deetz and Mumby, 1990] of the critical management tradition.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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