Act expediently, with autonomy: vicarious learning, empowered behaviors, and performance

Dana Mc Daniel Sumpter, Cristina B. Gibson, Christine Porath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this research is to investigate how organizations can best facilitate an empowered workforce that makes autonomous decisions and acts expediently, which the literature on high performing organizations posits will increase the likelihood of sustained performance and retaining competitive advantages. We introduce a novel mechanism for encouraging such behaviors and pursuant outcomes: vicarious learning from a supervisor who demonstrates autonomy and expediency. Design/Methodology/Approach: We drew experimental data from a sample of participants who underwent a managerial simulation, and used these data to investigate relationships between the vicarious learning of empowered behaviors and individual task performance (n = 100). Findings: Results indicate that when supervisors behave with autonomy and expediency this both increases the extent to which individuals behave similarly, and is associated with enhanced individual performance. Further, we find that expedient behavior fully mediates the relationship between empowered supervisor behavior and performance. Implications: Findings show that supervisors need not necessarily engage directly in empowering others. Rather, by modeling behaviors, supervisors can craft a context where employees may act with autonomy and efficiency. This provides an opportunity for empowerment that is both actionable and cost-effective. Originality/Value: This is the first study to consider empowerment as a managerial phenomenon that can be vicariously learned, integrating theories of social learning and empowerment, and extending existing empowerment constructs (including psychological and structural) to develop an indirect, yet potent means of encouraging empowered behavior. © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-145
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Act expediently, with autonomy: vicarious learning, empowered behaviors, and performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this