Purpose – Empowerment is a concept that means different things to different individuals. The factors that engender feelings of empowerment are thus multifarious. The purpose of this paper is to focus on to the factors that empower individuals and teams in projects settings.
Design/methodology/approach – Using the critical incident technique (CIT), 122 critical incidents comprising 69 empowering and 53 disempowering experiences of 30 purposively selected construction professionals are elicited and analysed.
Findings – Adopting a broad frame of reference on the premise that empowerment of individuals and teams in project settings is associated with drivers and barriers related to: the individual; the team context; the organisation; and the project – mutually exclusive and exhaustive contextual influences within each frame of reference are identified. At the individual-level, cultural values and factors related to the quality of relationships with leaders and colleagues emerged. At the team-level, team context and leadership style are the key factors. At the organisation-level, factors related to structure and culture emerged. At the project-level, project characteristics, organisation, environment and technology-related factors impacted the empowerment of individuals and teams.
Practical implications – Practically, the paper provides targets of concrete interventions by leaders and organisations desirous of fostering empowerment in project teams.
Originality/value – This paper adds to previous research in demonstrating the practicality of the CIT in construction specific research and the credibility and trustworthiness checks employed are exemplary of measures researchers using qualitative methodologies can take to assert the credibility of their findings and conclusions.