Employee Voice Implications for Innovation in a Deliberative Environment Context of Indian Organizations

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Department 1




Extant literature shows that employee voice has ambiguous effects on organizational outcome. Especially because employee voice challenges the status quo, it can attract retaliation and lead to silencing of the employee. Thus, rather than producing change, employee voice can lead to increase in workplace tensions. On the other hand, employee voice also has positive consequences such as building a partnership-based culture between supervisors and employees. The purpose of this article is to reconcile these contradictory findings by reinforcing voice as having a deliberative dimension which fosters a harmonious dialogue around workplace issues.


We surveyed 628 managers working in organizations across different industrial relations contexts in India. Managers working in different sectors were chosen so that we could examine the consequences of employee voice across contexts with differing trade union strengths. We adopted a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) approach to test the effect of employee voice on environment for innovation.


We find that trust in senior management and relationship between employees and their supervising managers mediate the relationship between employee voice and environment for innovation. The findings in the article do reconcile an important dilemma about employee voice. Earlier studies have argued that employee voice is a mechanism for engaging with the dissatisfaction that employees may have in their workplaces. Our study indicates that when deliberative elements are incorporated into employee voice it is no longer merely a means for addressing dissatisfaction but constructively contributes to positive organizational outcomes such as environment for innovation.

Research limitations/implications

The effects of employee voice on environment for innovation can be understood more clearly by adopting a longitudinal research design. The findings of this article are limited by the cross-sectional frame of research design adopted. The scale that is developed for employee voice needs more validation in other international contexts.

Practical implications

This study provides a framework through which employee voice can be shifted from adversarial frames of reference to harmonious and partnership-based forms of engagement. This also has the potential to transform the role of trade unions inside organizations and build a more collaborative edifice between multiple stakeholders. Another implication is that when voice is seen in a deliberative fashion it can lead to improved environment for innovation.


The purpose of this study is to contribute to reconceptualization of employee voice by contending that deliberative issues are an important part of transforming the status quo. Consequently, the patterns of deliberation structure constructive partnerships between different organizational stakeholders who may be perceived as having hostile relationships with each other. This study reconciles previous findings which suggested that employee voice can have negative consequences such as retaliation by suggesting that positive consequences of employee voice are contingent on its deliberative component.



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