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Initial researches in
the area of employee voices were quite limited due to lack of conceptual
clarity of employee voices and non availability of robust measurements
including statistical tools. (Gorden, 1988). However, scholars
started focus on voice research after the pioneering study of Van Dyne and LePine 1998, where he not only defined the
construct of employee voice but also developed an operational measure of it. As
per the study of Van Dyne and LePine (1998), the voice is explained as how
employee express constructive challenges that aimed to improve the current
status and he mentioned that change oriented suggestions and recommendations
for improvement are some of the examples for voices. Scholars tried to define
voices as employees’ discretionary behavior which is intended to improve
organizational functioning, challenge & upset the status quo and mainly
aimed to target the people who holds power within the organization (Detert and Burris (2007). Voice is considered to be employees’
expression such as opinions, concerns, or ideas about work-related issues that are
challenging and constructive (Tangirala and Ramanujam (2008b). Sometimes voice is
considered to be employees’ intentional efforts to articulate instead of  withholding relevant ideas, information and
opinion in connection with work related improvements ( Van Dyne, Ang, and Botero (2003).  Encompassing both voices which is directed
towards superior as well as to team members, Morrison 2011 suggested an
integrated definition of voice as employees discretionary behavior of
articulating ideas, suggestions, concerns or opinions  about 
their work related issues in order to improve organizational or their
department or team performance and functioning Burris,
Detert, & Chiaburu, 2008; Detert & Burris, 2007; Detert & Trevino,
2010; LePine & Van Dyne, 1998; Tangirala & Ramanujam, 2008b; Van Dyne,
Ang, & Botero, 2003; Van Dyne & LePine, 1998)

 

Employee Voice as a
Unique Construct:

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Although employee voice parallels
other forms of extra-role or organizational citizenship behavior (e.g.
issue-selling, dissent, whistle-blowing, taking charge, breaking silence, voice
behavior has evolved into a distinct and focal construct. In the literature,
voice has been frequently mentioned along the same lines as organizational
citizenship behavior (OCB) – positive and discretionary behaviors which are not
explicitly defined in the organizational contract but are nonetheless important
in promoting effective organizational functioning (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Organ,
2006); however, most OCB studies have unintentionally shifted their attention
away from the challenging and innovative aspect of behavior that is a central
tenet of employee voice. It is noteworthy that although change-oriented (i.e.
speaking up) appeared in Organ’s (1988) original construct of OCB under the
civic virtue dimension (i.e. speaking up for the benefit of the organization
and suggesting improvements in organizational issues and policies), current
studies tend to use popular OCB measurements that inadequately captures civic
virtue (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, & Fetter, 1990). Van Dyne et al.
(1994) criticized this limitation because they noticed the absence of items
that gaged “communications that challenge norms” and behaviors that “support
unpopular views”. As a result, a unique employee voice construct was
subsequently developed and is the basis for much of the current employee voice
literature (e.g. Burris, 2012; Burris et al., 2008). As an “assertive
nonconformance” (Tangirala & Ramanujam, 2008), the biggest distinction that
makes employee voice unique is its constructive nature and motivation to induce
change. Therefore, for the purpose of this study, we uphold the definition of
voice as a discretionary, change-oriented behavior that – unlike complaining or
whining – aims to help improve the organization and challenge the status quo.

 

Employee voice is defined as the
discretionary communication of opinions and thought that – unlike merely
complaining – is intended to be beneficial, even though such information  may challenge and upset the status quo
(Burris et al., 2008). The concept of employee voice originates from the idea
that employees may be dissatisfied with their current environment and seek to
improve their own and/or their organization’s well-being rather than to quit or
remain quiet (Hirschman, 1970). In Hirschman’s (1970) words, voice is an effort
to “change, rather than escape from, an objectionable state of affairs”.
Eisenberg and Goodall (2001) reiterate this conceptualization by describing
voice as the employee’s choice to question the status quo “rather than keep quiet
and stay or give up and leave”. Voice behavior has also been deemed a
“constructive change-oriented communication” (LePine & Van Dyne, 2001) that
could be in the form of suggestions for improvement (Van Dyne & LePine,
1998), identifying problems relating to work and the organization (Milliken et
al., 2003), disclosures of unfairness or misconduct (Pinder & Harlos,
2001), propositions of strategic ideas (Dutton & Ashford, 1993), or
opinions or ideas differing from those of others (Premeaux & Bedeian, 2003).
Voice is not simply saying something; it must encompass three inherent
characteristics – discretionary, change-oriented, and potentially risky.

 

Generally, there are
two types of conceptualization of voices in management literature – 1) Employees’
Speaking up behavior where employees speak up proactively when they want to
make suggestions for change (Farrell and Rusbult, 1992; Frese et al.,
1999; LePine and Van Dyne, 1998; Rusbult et al., 1988; Van Dyne et al., 1995;
Withey and Cooper, 1989; Zhou and George, 2001) 
– 2)
Presence of process & procedure which describe availability of system in
the organization that enhances employee perception on justices and facilitate
employee participation in decision making (Lind et al., 1990). There are evidences to
suggest that employees think that they can influences organizations decisions
and expect system to capture their voices to improve organizational commitment
and employee engagement. Organizations institutionalize various process to
capture employees voice so that employees can influence organization decision
and can rise their views on the current process ( C Rees et al 2013). Both
conceptualizations have its own merit in addressing management issues, in
current study, we focus  on
conceptualization of voice as employees speaking up behavior rather than
organizational process because we are interested to explore impact of employees
voices on team process that lead to team outcomes.

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