Topic: Employee Voice

Author(s), Title and Publication

Landau, J. (2009). To speak or not to speak: Predictors of voice propensity. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communication and Conflict, 13(1), 35-54.


“Voice” is dissent expressed openly and clearly in a constructive fashion within organizations to people who can influence organizational decisions and actions.  This study investigated predictors of employees’ voice propensity from both an individual (self-efficacy, power distance) and organizational perspective (whether supervisors are competent voice managers, number of voice methods available). Self-efficacy refers to people’s confidence in their work competence and effectiveness. Power distance is the extent to which less powerful members in an organization expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. Employees in high power distance cultures are more likely to be afraid to disagree with their supervisors.

In an online survey, 225 business school students at a state college in the Northeast and their friends or coworkers answered questions regarding voice propensity, power distance, self-efficacy, supervisors’ competence in voice management, and methods used by organizations to encourage people to speak up (e.g., meeting with HR manager, open door policy, and Intranet suggestion system). .

Hierarchical regression analysis showed that employees were more likely to voice when they had supervisory responsibility and greater self-efficacy, perceived lower power distance, and felt their supervisor was responsive and approachable. Voice propensity was not found to be related to the number of voice methods or channels available in an organization. The most frequently reported channels were open door policies and regular department meetings, followed by meetings with an HR manager. The least common methods were ombudsmen and non-union grievance committees. Except for regular department meetings, many  respondents didn’t know whether other voice methods existed in their organizations.

Implications for Practice

Organizations might promote employee voice by 1) increasing employee self-efficacy through selection or training, and 2) training supervisors to be approachable and receptive to employee complaints and suggestions. Employees in the U.S. are expected to voice directly, but with increasingly diverse workforces, organizations might want to learn how to encourage voice among employees who have a high power distance orientation (e.g., employees in Asia). .

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (conference proceeding, introduction, key findings)

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