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 7: Labour process perspectives on employee voice

Abigail Marks and Shiona Chillas


Employee voice is used as an umbrella term to cover formal and informal avenues through which workers and their representatives are able to contribute to decision-making in organizations. The neutral tone of employee voice masks organizational processes such as participation, engagement, involvement and empowerment, which in some circumstances are used interchangeably and in others are given a specific meaning attached to a particular theoretical perspective on employee relations with associated management practices. Human resource management, for example, casts voice as an involvement mechanism that contributes to worker well-being, whilst simultaneously fulfilling management aspirations for continuous improvement in task-based participation and work organization (Marchington, 2007). Accordingly, perspectives on employee voice can be conceptually arranged along a spectrum ranging from voice as a mechanism for emancipation and engagement, typical of a best practice human resource management view (Gatenby et al., 2011), to voice as a manifestation of exploitation in what Mart'nez Lucio (2010: 123) characterizes as 'the age of self-harm as the socioeconomic system turns further inwards onto the body to extract ever more intense levels of worker activity and effort'. The spectrum occurs as a result of the different underlying theoretical perspectives which are subsumed under a neutral term encompassing a range of activities and work organization in contemporary society (Wilkinson and Fay, 2011). Employee voice is a literal term, suggesting channels of communication, yet it is also metaphorical, covering control mechanisms and representing enactments of power relations in organizations.

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