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 24: Employee silence

Niall Cullinane and Jimmy Donaghey


The theme of employee voice is central to the study and understanding of work, employment and labour management. A vast body of literature exists on the subject, ranging from studies focused around the efficacy of particular voice mechanisms in delivering on workers' interests, to the more 'managerially' driven concerns as to whether voice impacts on firms' profitability (Johnstone et al., 2010; Kim et al., 2010). Whether these are considered separately or in alliance, some semblance of the two has tended to punctuate the study of voice in literature on work and employment. Furthermore, many of these considerations have been characterized by an underlying assumption that managers and organizations should encourage workers to voice their concerns. The human resource management literature has maintained that firms should embrace 'employee voice' because of its positive 'performance' benefits (Cotton et al., 1998; Pohler and Luchak, Chapter 12 above). In the pluralist industrial relations literature, voice is advocated partly because it is seen as an 'organizational good': to paraphrase Flanders's (1970) famous dictum, 'managers can only maintain control by sharing it'. Whilst not seeking to disregard these perspectives, it is reasonable to propose, in opposition, that employers are not necessarily interested in, or inclined to encourage, voice (or at least certain variants of it). Indeed there is a long lineage of research which shows how employers, either by design or default, inhibit workers from articulating their voice (Roy, 1980; Dundon, 2002).

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