Handbook of Research on Employee Voice
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Handbook of Research on Employee Voice

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Jimmy Donaghey, Tony Dundon and Richard B. Freeman

The term ‘employee voice’ refers to the ways and means through which employees can attempt to have a say and influence organizational issues that affect their work and the interests of managers and owners. The concept is distinct, but related to and often overlapping with issues such as participation, involvement and, more recently, engagement. This Handbook provides an up-to-date survey of the current research into employee voice, sets this research into context and sets a marker for future research in the area.
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Chapter 2: Employee voice before Hirschman: its early history, conceptualization, and practice

Bruce E. Kaufman


A person reading the scholarly employee voice literature could easily conclude the subject did not exist before Albert Hirschman wrote Exit, Voice and Loyalty (1970). His book is repeatedly cited as the root stem of the field (for example, Wall and Wood 2007: 1336; Morrison 2011: 380), with the implication being that no one before him had given articulation to the concept. A Google search on the term 'voice' reveals in a matter of seconds, however, that this is a serious case of historical myopia. Yes, Hirschman deserves credit for being the first to develop a formal theory of voice, albeit limited to people in their role as consumers in product markets. Accordingly, Freeman and Medoff (1984) also deserve credit because they were the first to take Hirschman's theoretical ideas and apply them to employees in labor markets. Unacknowledged and unrecognized, however, is a long train of writing on employee voice that predates Hirschman and Freeman and Medoff by a century and more. In this chapter I give a brief overview and synthesis of the early writing on employee voice. Part of the mission is to sketch a missing component in the history of thought, a discussion which I believe most readers will find interesting and useful in its own right. This historical analysis also has an instrumental purpose, however, which is to shape, inform, and critique the present-day research program on employee voice.

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