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How Employees Can Speak Up and Have Their Voices Heard

Employee voice refers to an employee’s ability to speak up in the workplace. There has been a plethora of research on this topic. Most of the research studies have focused on organizational antecedents that can promote or hinder employee voice. Other research has focused on the benefits of employee voice. 

However, limited research exists on how employees express their employee voices and whether these ways of expressing matter. Research in the Journal of Applied Psychology explored this topic. More specifically, the researchers examined how a manager’s receptiveness to suggestions can be influenced by (1) how an employee expresses voice and (2) the employee’s credibility. The researchers hypothesized that this relationship may be influenced by certain employee characteristics such as voice politeness (i.e., using respectful language) and voicer credibility (i.e., appearing competent and knowledgeable). 

The research conducted three separate studies. The first study required participants to take an online survey. The results revealed that voice directness was positively related to managerial endorsement. In other words, a manager was more likely to support an idea when it was communicated directly and clearly articulated. Further, the results revealed that when the speaker was more credible, managers were more likely to endorse voice expressed in a direct manner. The second study was conducted with a support management company in the United States. The results of this study revealed similar results as the first. 

A third, and final, study was conducted at a solar energy manufacturing firm in China. Similar to the aforementioned studies, the researchers found that voice directness was positively related to managerial endorsement. However, unlike the aforementioned studies, the results revealed a strong association between directness and managerial endorsement was even stronger when employees spoke up in a polite and respectful manner. This suggests that in China, respect for managers was extremely important in work cultures in China, where politeness is expected.