Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations

Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations

Overcoming Fear, Fostering Courage and Unleashing Candour

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper

This book examines the decision to speak out in organizations or to keep silent, the roles of fear and courage, and why increasing valid information and truth is central to individual and organizational health. Employees in organizations face countless daily situations in which they make a choice to speak up, exercise voice, or remain silent. Too many choose to remain silent. Others only tell supervisors what they want to hear, becoming ‘yes’ men and women. Expressing one’s voice increases individual health and well-being and enhances learning, quality and timeliness of decision making, work engagement, and ultimately team and organizational success. This volume, containing chapters by international researchers, examines the causes and consequences of exercising voice and ways individuals and organizations can support voice in the workplace.

Chapter 9: Supervisory epistemic, ideological, and existential responses to voice: a motivated cognition approach

Dan S. Chiaburu, Crystal Farh and Linn Van Dyne

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


Employee voice – defined as the communication of constructive ideas for workplace improvement (e.g., Van Dyne, Cummings, and McLean Parks, 1995; Van Dyne and Le Pine, 1998) – is an important contributor to organizational effectiveness. Scholars invoke a variety of rationales to explain the benefits of subordinate voice, including gaining access to others’ perspectives, becoming aware of a broader range of inputs, and learning about suggestions subordinates have for improving existing processes (Morrison and Milliken, 2000; Thomas et al., Whitman, and Viswesvaran, 2010; Morrison, 2011, for a recent review). At the same time, subordinates’ voice to proximal and distal “higher-ups” is viewed as fraught with risks (Ashford et al., Rothbard, Piderit, and Dutton, 1998; Detert and Burris, 2007; Dutton et al., Ashford, Lawrence, and Miner-Rubino, 2002; Kish-Gephart et al., Detert, Treviño, and Edmondson, 2009). Indeed, supervisor reactions to employee voice can be positive or negative, and managers can respond based on at least three aspects of the voice event – the idea that was communicated, the very act of speaking up, and the person who engaged in voice. Illustratively, managers can embrace, champion, attack, or criticize the idea. Likewise, they can welcome, promote, ignore, or publicly denounce speaking up behavior. Finally, they can praise, reward, scold, or punish subordinates who engage in voice.

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