Empowering Employees: Getting Outside the Comfort Zone



In the ever-evolving landscape of modern businesses, the concept of employee empowerment has undergone a transformation. As a reminder, employee empowerment refers to the delegation of decision-making authority and responsibility to employees within an organization. It involves granting employees the autonomy and resources to make decisions, solve problems, and take ownership of their work-related tasks and responsibilities.

Like how a human body has certain fundamental biological needs for survival: air, food, and water, so the professional body of the employee has its own fundamental needs.

However, all too often this new hierarchy of needs have been reduced to its most detrimental state by managers too overworked and undertrained to realize the damage they are doing to the potential for growth in their employees. Due to this, the contemporary workplace seems to have shifted its focus towards catering to comfort, convenience, and the path of least resistance.

Yet, this very shift contradicts the essence of true employee empowerment, which thrives on pushing individuals beyond their comfort zones. As leaders, it is crucial to recognize that genuine empowerment arises from challenging employees, granting them opportunities to grow and evolve. However, just stretching employees to the breaking point is a real risk so leaders must challenge their workers in an environment brimming with care and empathy.

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” – President John F. Kennedy

The Dilemma of Comfort Zones

Statistical insights unveil the fact that many employees today find themselves trapped in the cocoon of their comfort zones, a situation that ultimately stagnates their personal and professional development. A Gallup US survey reveals that a mere 33% of employees are actively engaged in their work, underscoring the potential repercussions of comfort-centric corporate cultures. This survey also shows that, by comparison, organizations that prioritize the stretching of employees beyond their comfort zones experience a significant 10% boost in engagement/empowerment levels.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

Harnessing the Strength of the Empowering Stretch


The act of stretching employees beyond the confines of their own comfort is not merely an exercise in unfamiliar task delegation. It delves into the realm of nurturing potential and enabling the development of novel skills and perspectives. A comprehensive report by Deloitte underscores this sentiment, revealing that companies prioritizing skill-building and experiential learning by challenging the learners, results in a notable 37% increase in employee productivity compared to their counterparts that fail to do so.

The Balancing Act of Care and Empathy

“Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge.” – Simon Sinek


The process of stretching employees must be meticulously accompanied by a genuine sense of care and empathy. Leaders, in their pursuit of enhancing productivity and innovation, must navigate the fine line between pushing employees and providing an environment where growth can flourish. A study showcased in the pages of the Harvard Business Review reinforces this notion by revealing that employees who perceive support from their managers and colleagues while tackling challenging tasks are more likely to excel and innovate.

Creating a Culture of Empowerment

The cultivation of an empowered workplace culture, one that champions the act of stretching beyond comfort zones, requires strategic planning and an unwavering commitment from leadership. A survey undertaken by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that a staggering 85% of employees feel more empowered when their leaders regularly provide constructive feedback, coaching, and avenues for skill enrichment.

Tips for Leaders to Stretch Employees into Empowerment


Set Clear Expectations

Clearly outline the goals and objectives for each employee, challenging them to aim higher and go beyond their usual responsibilities. Employees must meet their current goals to be able to stretch beyond them so setting clear standards is a great way to ensure the needful things are cared for first.

Encourage Skill Development

Identify areas where employees have room for growth and provide opportunities for them to learn new skills that will push them outside their comfort zones. Provide tools that help workers have a clear view of what their potential strengths and opportunities for growth are.

Assign Stretch Projects

Assign projects that require employees to work on tasks they haven’t done before. This encourages them to learn on the job and expand their capabilities. When the requirements of the project allow for workers to be partnered with more seasoned and skilled workers, this can help accelerate development.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Regularly offer feedback on performance, highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement. Constructive feedback helps employees see their progress and understand where they need to stretch further.

Create Safe Spaces

Foster an environment where failure is seen as a learning opportunity rather than a setback. This encourages employees to take risks and explore new approaches.

Recognize Efforts

Acknowledge and celebrate employees’ efforts and accomplishments as they step out of their comfort zones. Recognition boosts confidence and motivates further growth.

Offer Mentorship and Coaching

Pair employees with mentors or coaches who can guide them through challenges, provide insights, and share their own experiences of pushing boundaries.

Rotate Responsibilities

Rotate roles or responsibilities periodically to expose employees to different facets of the organization. This widens their perspective and encourages adaptability.

Support Work-Life Balance

Ensure that the push for growth doesn’t lead to burnout. Empowerment is sustainable when employees feel supported in managing their work-life balance.

Lead by Example

As a leader, show your willingness to step outside your own comfort zone. This authenticity inspires employees to follow suit.

Celebrate Achievements

When employees successfully navigate their discomfort and achieve their goals, celebrate their accomplishments publicly to reinforce the value of stretching beyond comfort.

Provide Resources

Equip employees with the necessary tools, training, and resources to help them succeed in their new challenges.

Embracing the Journey to Empowerment

Amidst an era where comfort and convenience often dominate workplace discussions, it becomes incumbent upon leaders to acknowledge that authentic empowerment isn’t born from the easy path. By challenging employees and affording them the space to venture beyond their comfort zones, leaders lay the groundwork for individual growth, organizational triumph, and a culture that thrives on innovation. When pursued with the infusion of care and empathy, this approach becomes the bedrock of empowerment, propelling both employees and organizations towards unprecedented achievements. Through the delicate balance of stretching and support, we illuminate the path to empowerment that transforms aspirations into reality.

In conclusion, empowering employees by pushing them beyond their comfort zones is a transformative approach that cultivates growth, innovation, and success. By embracing this philosophy and implementing actionable strategies, leaders can create a workplace culture that thrives on stretching, care, and empathy, setting the stage for both individual and organizational empowerment.

At Mercury Performance Group, a company helping organizations of 500 or more employees solve their HR problems, empower their employees, and elevate their performance, we excel at helping organization implement the programs and processes that result in real empowerment. Contact us to start your organization on this path today.

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