Hearing voice and silence during stressful economic times

Schlosser, Francine & Zolin, Roxanne (2012) Hearing voice and silence during stressful economic times. Employee Relations, 34(5), pp. 555-573.

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Purpose - It is ironic that in stressful economic times, when new ideas and positive behaviors could be most valuable, employees may not speak up, leading to reduced employee participation, less organizational learning, less innovation and less receptiveness to change. The supervisor is the organization’s first line of defense against a culture of silence and towards a culture of openness. This research asks what helps supervisors to hear prosocial voice and notice defensive silence.

Design/methodology/approach - We conducted a cross-sectional field study of 142 supervisors.

Findings - Our results indicate that prosocial voice is increased by supervisor tension and trust in employees, while defensive silence is increased by supervisor tension but reduced by unionization of employees and trust in employees. This indicates that, as hypothesized by others, voice and silence are orthogonal and not opposites of the same construct.

Research limitations/implications - The data is measured at one point in time, and further longitudinal study would be helpful to further understand the phenomena.

Practical implications - This research highlights the potential for supervisors in stressful situations to selectively hear voice and silence from employees.

Originality/value - This study adds to our knowledge of prosocial voice and defensive silence by testing supervisors’ perceptions of these constructs during difficult times. It provides valuable empirical insights to a literature dominated by conceptual non-empirical papers. Limited research on silence might reflect how difficult it is to study such an ambiguous and passive construct as silence (often simply viewed as a lack of speech). also contribute to trust literature by identifying its role in increasing supervisor’s perceptions of prosocial voice and reducing perceptions of defensive silence.

Impact and interest:

3 citations in Scopus
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1 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 51071
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Employees Behaviour, Employees Participation, Employees Relations, Management Attitudes, Positive Coping, Recession, Silence, Trust, Voice
DOI: 10.1108/01425451211248569
ISSN: 0142-5455
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Human Resources Management (150305)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Industrial Relations (150306)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Deposited On: 06 Aug 2012 22:54
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 18:34

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