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 3: Hirschman and voice

Matthew M.C. Allen


Many recent studies of employment relations have explicitly drawn upon the concept of 'voice' as part of their analytical frameworks (see, for instance, Bryson et al., 2006; Budd et al., 2010; Dundon et al., 2004, 2005; Gollan, 2005; Lavelle et al., 2010; Wilkinson and Fay, 2011; Wood et al., 2009). However, Hirschman (1970), who is credited with introducing the term within scholarly analyses, largely applied the concept to customers within competitive markets and 'customer-members' of organizations such as clubs; he did not draw on it to explain employee behaviour within firms. This is noteworthy, as the relationship between consumers and firms in competitive markets and that between employees and employers are fundamentally different. Most importantly, the issue of power within the latter relationship requires even closer scrutiny than it does within the former. In addition, power and the assumptions that are made about the (in)ability of employers and employees to enter into a non-conflictual relationship and/or into a partnership are of central importance within the broad literature on employment (Ackers, forthcoming; Ackers et al., 2005; Johnstone et al., 2010). By contrast, assumptions that firms, in general, will seek to respond to changed customer preferences is more widely accepted (though compare Crouch, 2011). This chapter discusses Hirschman's (1970) use of the terms 'voice', 'exit', and 'loyalty'. It will raise and discuss crucial issues for studies that apply these terms within the employment relationship.

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