• elderly care;
  • first-line managers;
  • staff;
  • structural empowerment


To elucidate first-line managers’ descriptions and reflections regarding their staff's access to empowering structures using Kanter's theory of structural empowerment.


Good structural conditions within workplaces are essential to employees’ wellbeing, and their ability to access empowerment structures is largely dependent on the management.


Twenty-eight first-line managers in elderly care were interviewed. Deductive qualitative content analysis was used to analyse data.


Managers perceived that staff had varying degrees of access to the empowering structures described in Kanter's theory – and that they possessed formal power in their roles as contact persons and representatives. The descriptions mostly started from the managers’ own actions, although some started from the needs of staff members.


All managers described their staff's access to the empowering structures in Kanter's theory as important, yet it seemed as though this was not always reflected on and discussed as a strategic issue.

Implications for nursing management

Managers could make use of performance and appraisal dialogues to keep up to date on staff's access to empowering structures. Recurrent discussions in the management group based on such current information could promote staff's access to power through empowering structures and make job definitions a strategic issue in the organisation.