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 17: Individual voice: grievance and other procedures

David Lewin


The concept of an employee exercising voice in an employment relationship is of relatively recent origin. For much of recorded history, those who performed work did so in a serf, slavery or indentured servitude context during which survival was the ultimate objective. Later, as medievalism became supplanted by mercantilism, industrialization and eventually market capitalism, the concept of employment emerged and became widespread to the point where, today, most people in advanced and developing nations earn their living through such employment (Tawney, 1926; Smith, 1776; Ashton, 1948). In an employment relationship, an individual employee performs labor services in exchange for compensation. From a microeconomic theory perspective on this relationship, labor is a factor of production and an employer will add labor to the point where the marginal cost from doing so equals the marginal revenue (obtained) from doing so (Kaufman, 2010). In this rudimentary labor market exchange, nothing else is in play; there is no bonus pay, fringe benefit, payroll tax or collective behavior, such as unionization. There is also no place for individual employee voice in this factor of production-based view of employment. In the real world of labor markets and employment, by contrast, numerous institutional arrangements prevail and influence the quantity of employment as well as terms and conditions of employment.

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