The debate about the effects of new work systems - the so-called High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) - in terms of improving economic performance and productivity of the enterprise is rich in contributions and a substantial convergence is recorded in saying that, in the presence of a well thought-out and properly implemented system, the effects are positive. More neglected and controversial are the effects that these practices have for the well-being of workers. Through a review of theoretical and empirical literature on the topic, this paper analyses the traditional opposition between supporters of the "empowerment view" and supporters of the "intensification view". The former consider the HPWS such as win-win solutions for enterprises and workers, while the latter believe that the HPWS are a managerial expedient that aims to intensify the pace of work and the efforts required to workers. The results show that both positions are sustainable and attach to internal tensions related to HPWS (i.e. control/ discretion, responsibility/stress, etc.) the uncertainty of the results found from the literature. This interpretation finds in the intermediate "sceptical view" the more careful position to adopt and suggests to pay greater attention to the measurement adopted to analyze these relationships and to the characteristics of the employees and of the context in which HPWS are introduced. Finally, some directions for the development of future researches in this area are drawn.
Keywords: Empowerment, work intensification, well-being, job statisfaction, job stress, control, discretion, high performance work systems, human resource management.