Topic: Upward Dissent

Author(s), Title and Publication

Kassing, J. W. (2009). “In Case You Didn’t Hear Me the First Time”: An Examination of Repetitious Upward Dissent. Management Communication Quarterly, 22(3), 416-436.


This study explored how 190 employees from a variety of organizations in Arizona expressed dissent to management about the same issue on multiple occasions across time. Those participants recalled and described a particular workplace issue about which they disagreed or shared contradictory opinions with their supervisors on three or more occasions. They reported the dissent tactics they used, the frequency and duration of their disagreements, the interval between expressions, and the perceived supervisors’ responses to their concerns.

In early periods of dissent, employees predominantly used more benign and constructive forms of upward dissent tactics (i.e., direct factual appeal and solution presentation).  However, they used less constructive tactics (i.e., circumvention, and threatening resignation) when supervisors failed to address their repeated concerns in a timely and appropriate manner. Employees tended to do so more quickly when faced with unfavorable responses from supervisors. This study also found that dissent repetition duration was related to supervisors’ responses, indicating that employees might continue to dissent when their supervisors used delaying responses, but they might reduce dissent when they perceived unfavorable responses from supervisors. No significant relationship existed between supervisors’ responses to repetition and the number of times that employees raised an issue, or the amount of time between dissent episodes.

Implications for Practice

Managers might benefit if they: 1) address employees’ concerns early when issues have not accelerated and can be resolved constructively; 2) redouble efforts to address a dissent claim when they recognize fundamental changes in the employee’s expressions of the dissent; 3) allow open discussion on issues if managers are unable to address concerns earlier; and 4) provide employees with channels to express dissent (e.g., open-door policy).

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (Journal article, free abstract, Purchase full article) (Conference paper, 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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