This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center


Organizations thrive when employees provide constructive and candid feedback intended to improve overall business operations. Challenging promotive voice, or feedback specifically designed to bring about positive change rather than merely criticize, has been described as a key factor in numerous organizational outcomes such as improved task performance, creativity, and reduced turnover. Although employee voice behaviors are well-documented, limited attention has been paid to the influences of employees’ challenging promotive voice. Highlighting the critical significance of social and structural factors, the authors of this study examined the role of social status on challenging promotive voice. The researchers also looked at how organizational justice may mitigate the effects of social status and foster challenging promotive voice.


The authors conducted an online survey that was distributed to customer service workers (e.g., customer support, call center, and information desk workers) employed in so-called “care industries” in South Korea whose day-to-day tasks involved direct interactions with customers and clients. The 214 participants who completed the survey were approached through Blind, an enterprise social media platform in which members can exchange their opinions and work experiences regarding a variety of topics without disclosing their identity. As Blind is an anonymous communication platform, workers can share their candid thoughts without concerns of potential retributions or negative judgment.

Key Findings

-Age, a status signal particularly in hierarchical settings, had a positive association with the use of challenging promotive voice at work. Similarly, self-perceived social status was also linked to the use of challenging promotive voice among employees.

-Both interpersonal justice (i.e., the “communicative” aspect of organizational justice, articulating the criteria for evaluating the fairness of interpersonal treatment by decision-making authorities) and procedural justice (i.e., the fairness of procedural rule application during decision-making processes) had positive associations with employee voice.

-Interpersonal justice moderated the relationship between self-perceived social status and challenging promotive voice, such that the effect of status was less pronounced in a high interpersonal justice setting.

Implications for practice

Organizations should 1) encourage challenging promotive voice across age levels in order to glean diverse perspectives and limit age-related silence in hierarchal workplaces, 2) create an environment where all employees feel valued in order to increase self-perceived social status, which fosters increased employee feedback, and 3) take care that interpersonal justice situations (e.g., when an employee raises an issue) are resolved with the employee feeling heard and cared for to prevent silencing them from raising valid contributions in the future.


Kim, H., & Kiura, M. (2020). The Influences of Social Status and Organizational Justice on Employee Voice: A Case of Customer Care Workers. International Journal of Business Communication, 2329488420969776.

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