Topic: Employee Voice and Power Distance

Author(s), Title and Publication

Botero, I. C., & Dyne, L. V. (2009). Employee Voice Behavior: Interactive Effects of LMX and Power Distance in the United States and Colombia. Management Communication Quarterly, 23(1), 84-104.


Competitive advantage can come from ideas that employees communicate to supervisors for improving processes, products and services. One approach to studying employee communication with supervisors is voice behavior. In this study, the researchers drew on leader-member exchange (LMX) theory to examine the effect of LMX and cultural power distance (PD) on employee voice behavior. LMX suggests that leaders develop different relationships with employees via communication; PD refers to the extent to which less powerful members of an organization or institution accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. Online surveys were conducted in a low PD country (the United States) and a high PD country (Colombia) to measure the unique and combined effects of those predictors.

Study 1, conducted in the United States (109 people), found that employees were more likely to invest efforts in developing ideas and speaking up when they perceived low PD and high-quality LMX (e.g., loyalty, liking, and sense of obligation). When LMX was high, PD had more salient effects on voice than it did when LMX was low. Study 2, conducted in Colombia (138 people), demonstrated similar effects of LMX and PD on voice, but no significant interaction. The possible reason for the lack of interaction between LMX and PD in Colombia was that communication in a high-context culture (e.g., Colombia) is more implicit than that in a low-context culture (e.g., the U.S.).

Implications for Practice

Employees in U.S. organizations with high LMX were willing to speak up only when they perceived low PD. Thus, managers in U.S. organizations may increase employee voice by communicating in ways that diminish status differences and enhance trust, for example, socializing informally, providing participative opportunities, and demonstrating empathy. For employees working in high PD organizations, more formal communication programs and relationships might be more appropriate.

Location of Article

The article is available online at:

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