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Conceptualizing Employee Silence and Employee Voice as Multidimensional Constructs


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  • Linn Van Dyne
  • Isabel C. Botero
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    Employees often have ideas, information, and opinions for constructive ways to improve work and work organizations. Sometimes these employees exercise voice and express their ideas, information, and opinions; and other times they engage in silence and withhold their ideas, information, and opinions. On the surface, expressing and withholding behaviours might appear to be polar opposites because silence implies not speaking while voice implies speaking up on important issues and problems in organizations. Challenging this simplistic notion, this paper presents a conceptual framework suggesting that employee silence and voice are best conceptualized as separate, multidimensional constructs. Based on employee motives, we differentiate three types of silence (Acquiescent Silence, Defensive Silence, and ProSocial Silence) and three parallel types of voice (Acquiescent Voice, Defensive Voice, and ProSocial Voice) where withholding important information is not simply the absence of voice. Building on this conceptual framework, we further propose that silence and voice have differential consequences to employees in work organizations. Based on fundamental differences in the overt behavioural cues provided by silence and voice, we present a series of propositions predicting that silence is more ambiguous than voice, observers are more likely to misattribute employee motives for silence than for voice, and misattributions for motives behind silence will lead to more incongruent consequences (both positive and negative) for employees (than for voice). We conclude by discussing implications for future research and for managers. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Management Studies.

    Volume (Year): 40 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 6 (09)
    Pages: 1359-1392

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:6:p:1359-1392

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    Cited by:
    1. Jason MacGregor & Martin Stuebs, 2014. "The Silent Samaritan Syndrome: Why the Whistle Remains Unblown," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 120(2), pages 149-164, March.
    2. Michael Knoll & Rolf Dick, 2013. "Do I Hear the Whistle…? A First Attempt to Measure Four Forms of Employee Silence and Their Correlates," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 113(2), pages 349-362, March.
    3. Travis, Dnika J. & Gomez, Rebecca J. & Mor Barak, Michàlle E., 2011. "Speaking up and stepping back: Examining the link between employee voice and job neglect," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(10), pages 1831-1841, October.
    4. Szabó, Zsolt, 2012. "A kivonulás-tiltakozás-hűség fogalomhármas közgazdaságtani relevanciája a 21. században
      [The relevance of "exit, voice and loyalty" theory in 21st-century economics]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(12), pages 1311-1335.
    5. Gerdien Vries & Karen Jehn & Bart Terwel, 2012. "When Employees Stop Talking and Start Fighting: The Detrimental Effects of Pseudo Voice in Organizations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 105(2), pages 221-230, January.
    6. Nemeth, Charlan Jeanne, 2010. "Minority Influence Theory," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt1pz676t7, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    7. Li Jie & Tomoki Sekiguchi, 2014. "A Social Cognitive Framework of Newcomersf Extra-Role Behaviors," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 14-18, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).
    8. P. Cassematis & R. Wortley, 2013. "Prediction of Whistleblowing or Non-reporting Observation: The Role of Personal and Situational Factors," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 117(3), pages 615-634, October.
    9. David Marsden, 2011. "Individual Voice in Employment Relationships: A Comparison Under Different Forms of Workplace Representation," CEP Discussion Papers dp1070, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. Myrtle P. Bell & Mustafa F. Özbilgin & T. Alexandra Beauregard & Olca Sürgevil, 2011. "Voice, silence, and diversity in 21st century organizations: strategies for inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 32094, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    11. Cam Caldwell & Mayra Canuto-Carranco, 2010. "“Organizational Terrorism” and Moral Choices – Exercising Voice When the Leader is the Problem," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 97(1), pages 159-171, November.


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