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Psychological empowerment in French nuclear power plants
FILLOL Charlotte1, 2
1. College of Business, Management Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco CA 94132, USA (
2. Dauphine Recherches Management, Paris Dauphine University, Place du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 75775 Paris cedex 16, France (charlotte.
Abstract: Since the eighties, nuclear safety has been discussed in organizational studies and constitutes nowadays a specific stream with several standpoints. Regarding the reliability of nuclear plants, the nuclear safety literature has emphasized on the crucial role of individuals and human factors. Especially, some researchers have noticed rule breaking behavior and the impact of individual self-confidence on thebehavior; but without deepening their analyses. As high self-esteem and confidence, i.e. psychological empowerment, naturally lead to innovation and rule breaking, the behavior can be analyzed, in such a regulated industry, as opposite to safety. Thus, this article aims at explaining the roots and discernable features of the observed psychological empowerment. Methods include an in-depth qualitative study in 4 nuclear power plants owned by Electricité de France (EDF), the French national nuclear operator. Focused on the leading team of the plant, the set of data is composed of 35 interviews, 6 weeks of non-participant observation and internal documents. The content analysis has revealed two main pillars of psychological empowerment. On the first hand, the strong professional identity developed at the opening of the plants is based on initiative and risk-taking. In some ways, this professional identity fostered by commitment to a demanding job and the team, influences behavior more than do professional rules. On the second hand, the management discourse is perceived as ambiguous towards the strict application of the rules and tacitly legitimizes rule breaking behavior. This article details and exemplifies these phenomena and discusses the implications.
Keywords: psychological empowerment; professional identity; rule breaking behavior
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