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Employee empowerment and its contextual determinants and outcome for service workers: A cross-national study

Peter Beomcheol Kim (School of Hospitality and Tourism, Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Auckland, New Zealand)
Gyumin Lee (School of Hospitality Management, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, South Korea)
Jichul Jang (Department of Hospitality Management and Dietetics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 19 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to investigate a research model of employee empowerment along with its contextual determinants (i.e. leader-member exchange (LMX) and schedule flexibility) and primary consequence (i.e. service performance) for restaurant workers in New Zealand and South Korea. The study further examines a moderating role of national differences derived from the power distance theory for the hypothesized paths between empowerment and its determinants and consequences.


This study utilized traditional paper-and-pencil surveys for data collection. A final sample of 303 service employees from restaurants in New Zealand (n=152) and South Korea (n=151) was used to test research hypotheses by structural equation modeling using LISREL (version 8.80).


The study concludes with two core findings supporting research hypotheses. First, as hypothesized, employees who consider their schedule flexible with high LMX quality with their immediate supervisor are more likely to feel empowered, and empowered workers are more likely to perform well in customer services. Furthermore, the results show that the impact of schedule flexibility and LMX on empowerment and the impact of empowerment on service performance are more salient among South Korean employees than their New Zealand counterpart.


Based on job characteristics, work adjustment, and social exchange theories, this study develops and tests a research model of employee empowerment including service context-relevant determinants, i.e., schedule flexibility and LMX, as well as a crucial work outcome, i.e., service performance, using two different national samples. The findings of this study contribute to the body of knowledge in understanding the organizational dynamic of employee empowerment in the service industry, suggesting that managers incorporate relevant contextual practices to promote empowerment, which ultimately enhances employees’ service performance. It is also recommended that such practices are carefully implemented, taking into consideration the cultural background of the workforce.



Kim, P.B., Lee, G. and Jang, J. (2017), "Employee empowerment and its contextual determinants and outcome for service workers: A cross-national study", Management Decision, Vol. 55 No. 5, pp. 1022-1041.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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