Proponenets of participatory workplaces claim that increased decision-making power enhances workers sense of self efficacy and ultimately empowers them (Graham, 1988; Paty 1992). The basic assumption of these theorists is that capitalists and employees have similar interests, and these similar interests can be used in a way to enhance the status of both groups. For instance, Cowan (1988) argues that companies directly benefit from the knowledge that workers possess. If workers have an incentive to reveal that knowledge then the companies would benefit. Kramer (1977) claims that "the incentive that workers need to divulge crucial information to companies is an increase in decision-making power" (p. 34). Decision-making power is crucial for two reasons: First, workers cannot make productive decisions without knowledge about company wants and resources (England and Farkas, 1997). Second, workers will not be willing to give up their talents without some sort of trade-off from the company (Hirshraw, Smith and Wesson, 1989). All proponents of participatory workplaces argue that besides providing workers with greater decision-making, companies must be willing to promise workers job security. An employee would be unwilling to give the company much needed information without the promise that their job is protected (Fantasia, 1998).
Opponents of participatory workplaces disagree with the fundamental assumption that businesses and workers have similar interests. They argue that businesses are interested in making profit, which means that workers needs will always come secondary (Hirshaw et al., 1989). Even if worker and business interests may coincide occasionally, once businesses are being challenged economically, the first action they will take to regain profit will be to reduce labor costs (Green, 1987). Thus, even if businesses and workers could be partners in the short term, long term economic uncertainty will bring events that will make it unlikely for businesses to by loyal to their workers (Front, 1998). Instead of using participatory workplaces to empower workers, opponents argue that businesses are using the rhetoric of participation to control workers. In other words, businesses are claiming to give workers more decision-making power, but are in truth, just demanding the knowledge workers have without giving up their power (Huuus, 1998).
Empirically, much evidence supports the arguments of the opponents of participaotry democracy. Studies show that most companies use the rhetoric of participation without conceeding power to employees. Furthermore, employees the rhetoric use of participation without its actual implementation has caused a high degree of employee discontentment, rather than empowerment (Myer, 1989; Fervor, 1978).