The overall aim of this research was to address the core problem that organisations appear to make decisions based on incomplete information.
Although many organisations invite their staff to give voice, people may choose
to remain silent at work and not voice their opinions, comments and suggestions.
This research tried to shed some light on this problem by asking how people talk
about voice and silence at work and by investigating the conditions under which
they speak out or keep quiet. This research project, which used Morrison's
(2011) definition and model of employee voice as a conceptual framework, was
conducted from a Critical Realist perspective and adopted a Mixed Methods
approach in order to triangulate the data across the project.
Study One used Q Method to gather data from 80 working adults who completed
an on-line survey by rank-ordering 50 statements about voice and silence at
work. The data were analysed using Centroid Factor Analysis and the factors
identified were then orthogonally rotated to produce 5 factors that, together,
accounted for 48% of the common variance in respondents' viewpoints. These
factors described the benefits of voice, the risks attached to speaking out, the
problems of thinking differently, the value of sharing knowledge and the
importance of having good ideas.
Study Two explored these factors further and used Thematic Analysis to
interpret the data from interviews with 15 participants who worked at various
levels for a UK trade union and professional body. This analysis produced 5 main
themes, which described how key people and a climate of sensitivity affected
voice, how voice moved around the organisation in unpredictable ways, how
voice could be packaged to get it heard, how senior managers, long servers and people with certain dispositions were heard more, and how being heard or
unheard impacted on people's behaviour and, by inference, on the organisation
as a whole.
The main implications of this research for work organisations and occupational
psychologists are that the climate of the workplace and the systems and
processes in place for voice could mean that certain types of people and certain
sorts of messages are heard more readily than others. This could lead
organisations to make decisions based on incomplete information and could lead
to the disengagement of those people who are not heard. Future research is
recommended into the influence of context and individual differences on voice,
and the impact on people at work when their voice is not welcomed.