Topic: Employee Involvement

Author(s), Title and Publication

Marshall, A. A., & Stohl, C. (1993). Being “In the Know” in a Participative Management System. Management Communication Quarterly, 6(4), 372-404.


A primary advantage of employee involvement is assumed to be the development of knowledgeable workers who perform better. Little research, however, has explored how employees’ activities facilitate their knowledge acquisition. This study investigated the influence of two factors (involvement in communication and leadership experience) on employees’ organizational knowledge level. Communication involvement was operationalized as a member’s network size.

A survey was conducted at a midwestern organization with a participative management structure. The plant’s members are divided into 14 self-managing work teams and 8 administrative and support groups. Each self-managing team elected two leaders from team members: a team resource (TR) and a team coordinator (TC). Most of the production and policy decisions are made by the product area core group, which was led by management resources and consisted of TRs, TCs, and other elected representatives. Plant-wide decisions are made by the plant core group, led by the plant manager, and made up of representatives from each team/group in the plant. In the study, 124 members (67 of them had leadership experience) of the 14 work teams completed a survey, which measured communication involvement, leadership experience, and organizational knowledge (production issues, plant policies, recognition of key individuals).

Results suggested that employees with larger networks did not necessarily know the organization better than those with smaller networks. However, those who cultivated strong relationships with key individuals (e.g., managers) were more likely to acquire information than those who did not. Furthermore, employees who had occupied one or more leadership positions possessed significantly greater organizational knowledge than did those who had no leadership experience. Follow-up analyses revealed that employees with more leadership positions and longer tenure in the positions were more knowledgeable. Notably, tenure as a leader was the strongest predictor of organizational knowledge level.

Implications for Practice

Managers may spur organizational knowledge among employees by: 1) being accessible and visible to the entire work force; 2) instituting an open-door policy, regularly attending team meetings, or establishing regular one-to-one feedback sessions with employees; and 3) providing employees with long-term leadership opportunities to involve them in broader organizational activities.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (free abstract, purchase full article)


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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