Empowerment in the Workplace:
Making the Office A Nicer Place to Be
by LaToya Prater, Ph.D., D.D.S., KCD
When people refer to "empowerment" in the workplace, they generally mean
the concept of arming workers with the knowledge and resources to take control of their
own theoretical "helm" and do a better job by doing it themselves, instead of
relying on a superior.
The thing I have found most empowering in the workplace is the use of unabashed,
sheer obnoxious honesty.
Too many people try to hide behind things like "diplomacy" and
"tolerance" in the office, which can lead to gross miscommunication and
Below are some scenarios and suggestions for turning "problems" into
"opportunities." And don't worry. You're not going to get fired. Especially if
you're a woman, person of color or fall into any other "minority" group.
Scenario: A co-worker has worked on a project you assigned them. They come to you
with a final "draft," and you think it's crap. You:
a. Politely point out what you like about the piece, but make some
"suggestions" for changes, and ask if they wouldn't mind drafting a few
b. Take the time to consider their point of view, and try to look at the piece with an
open mind - maybe their interpretation has more value than you thought.
c. Tell them it's crap, tell them to do it over and have it back to you in a ridiculously
short amount of time. When they look at you incredulously, explain the short turnaround is
punishment for not listening and following directions the first time. Be sure to follow up
with an e-mail in ALL CAPS and a bold red font spelling out the original assignment so
they don't fuck it up again.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you the answer is "c".
Anything else, and it could take until the end of the damn fiscal year to finish the
Scenario: You hear several co-workers standing outside your cubicle telling
off-color racial jokes. You know that the new intern, a female of color, is within
earshot, and that the jokes slur both her sex and race. The boss's office is also nearby.
Ah. This one's a little tricky. Some of you may be tempted to select
"b", not because you really give a rat's ass about offending anyone, but because
of the strong temptation to kiss managerial ass. DO NOT BE SWAYED. The correct
selection is "c". People of color or other minority status find it
highly offensive to be treated "specially." They are used to white supremacy,
and have come to expect it. A LACK of racism or other offensive, exclusive language is
what really makes people feel uncomfortable.
Scenario: Your boss routinely walks in on you surfing the Internet and generally
wasting company time shopping, looking at ESPN, downloading goofy crap to forward to your
friends or reading KCDrinker. About the fifth time this happens, your boss asks what you
are doing. You:
a. Explain that you frequently surf various web sites to learn how other companies
are marketing/positioning themselves in their respective fields. Tell him/her you are
taking extra classes in web marketing outside of work, because you feel it could help you
in your own job, or in future jobs you aspire to move up to within the company.
b. Hope your ninja-like reflexes activated in just enough time to snap the window closed
(revealing the same old Word document behind it you open when you want to appear to be
doing work), and he/she didn't see you were checking out
c. Don't turn around. Simply wave your hand at him/her and say "Can you come back
later? I'm busy shopping/reading/downloading porn right now. I'd rather talk to you when I
can give you my full attention."
The answer is "c". Although "a" is sneaky,
it's bullshit and most people know it. You must take full ownership of your
"bad" behavior, because it's only bad if you look guilty. Let the world know you
are proud of your slacking, and see nothing wrong with it. In addition, you have shown
your boss respect by your willingness to give him/her your full attention when you're not
busy with more important things. You'd be surprised how the people around you will respect
your honesty and balls-to-the-wall laziness, and back the fuck off.
Scenario: You frequently get cornered at the copier, coffee pot, water cooler,
etc. by Helen, an elderly lady that has been working as an administrative professional in
your office for 35 years. You know that Helen lives alone, as her husband died two years
ago, and has tried to fill the lonely void with multiple cats. She takes up large amounts
of your time talking about her cats and their antics, and you don't know how to get away.
a. Designate 10-15 minutes of your day to talk to this woman and bring some light
into her life. Share stories about your dog, and listen to at least three cat stories.
After all, what're a few minutes? Someday you might be grateful if someone did the same
b. Frequently feign coughing fits, seizures, heart failure or suddenly remembered meetings
to escape the unwanted litany of "Fluffy shat in my slippers, isn't that sweet?"
c. Take Helen by the shoulders, make direct eye contact and say loudly "Helen, shut
the hell up about your goddamn cats already. Not everyone likes cats, and I know NO ONE
likes your stories. Go out and play Bingo, stay home and drink, do something, but STOP
wasting your own and others' precious on-the-job time - it's bad for productivity and for
Another no-brainer. Clearly, the answer is "c". It is
never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. If she can remember what her cat was
wearing at its 2nd birthday party, she can damn well remember the valuable advice you have
just enlightened her with. She will probably even thank you in her suicide note.
These are just a few examples of how to put the "fun" in
"workplace". And the best part is, it's FREE. Brutal honesty doesn't cost a
* lawsuits notwithstanding
- www.KCDrinker.com - 2004 ©
LaToya "GfV" Prater is a free-lance
drinker and writer. A native of New Jersey, she got hammered in Hoboken a few years back
and woke up in Kansas City tied to the passenger seat of a '77 El Dorado with Gavin McLeod
wearing nothing but Fred Grandy. Now a resident of KC, Mo., Prater indulges her
overwhelming addiction to editing other peoples copy to earn a paycheck and spends
the rest of her time focusing on her three dearest passions: Alcohol, writing fiction, and
acting (Japanese balloon fetish porn).