A disempowerment checklist

Mark Dalgarno
2 min readMar 5, 2018

I’ve been running some workshops recently on ‘Dealing with Disempowerment’. I thought it might be useful to share some emerging findings in the form of a checklist.

Think of this as a set of criteria you can consider to understand better whether you are (being) disempowered. This is the product of some early thinking and I’d like some feedback on whether it’s useful and actionable. Also, let me know if you have more points that could be added to the checklist or any examples of disempowerment that you’d like to share.

You *may* be disempowered if:

  • You get the blame for things that weren’t of your doing or your manager / colleagues take the credit for work you did do.
  • You are publicly humiliated for something — for example this could be in front of one person, a whole team or a whole organisation.
  • Your manager or colleagues are always dictating details of how you work and checking them — even though you are able to do the work with little or no supervision.
  • A select few people in the organisation get special treatment e.g. friends of the boss, people who work closely with senior management etc.
  • You’re barred or excluded from certain activities or don’t have certain privileges because of your gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, beliefs, politics etc.
  • Your manager or colleagues withhold information from you that you need to know to perform your work.
  • Your manager or colleagues don’t give you trust. You might hear that trust has to be earned — but no matter what you seem to do you never earn it.
  • You have to follow overly-prescriptive processes or need to get an unnecessary number of approvals to perform some piece of work.
  • You don’t have the ability to do the work — this could be due to lack of training or support, not being given the right tools, being given an unrealistic deadline etc.
  • You are constantly moved off one piece of work onto another without knowing why. You never know from day to day what you’ll be working on.
  • You’re treated as a ‘resource’ — not a human being.
  • [New 08-Mar-18] — You are not allowed to represent yourself or you have to undertake some task but you cannot complete it because it’s too complex or specialist knowledge is needed, so you have to hire someone to represent you.
  • [New 11-Mar-18] — Reports about you or your teams performance are not available to you. Anything you want to say to senior managers has to be reported through your manager or their hierarchy.

Thanks to everyone who’s shared their examples of disempowerment with me already or who has taken part in one of my workshops.