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 29: The future of employee voice

John W. Budd


As recently as perhaps 25 years ago, employee voice was narrowly conceived. In the research literature, employee voice was largely seen as an extension of Hirschman's (1970: 30) conception of voice as a means to 'change, rather than escape from [that is, exit], an objectionable state of affairs.' In industrial relations, this was most influentially articulated through Freeman and Medoff's (1984) collective voice face of labor unions. Consistent with this, employee voice in practice was largely seen as something best delivered through labor unions. In retrospect, it is easy to see what should have been articulated 25 years ago as a future course for employee voice. Specifically, one should have called for broader definitions of employee voice, more diverse disciplinary perspectives on broader aspects of voice, and greater recognition of individual and non-union forms of voice in practice. Thankfully, that is where we are today, as witnessed by the breadth and depth of the chapters in this handbook and other recent collections of employee voice research (for example, Budd et al. 2010). So while the future of narrowly conceived voice and the closely associated institution of labor unionism are perhaps questionable at best, there is a strong future for richer and broader conceptualizations and forms of employee voice.

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