Overall Justice Perceptions & Voice Behavior--A Social Exchange Perspective.

AuthorShah, Shreya


Employee voice which is the "expression of constructive ideas, opinions or concerns about issues related to work" (Van Dyne, Ang & Botero, 2003), is a way in which employees contribute to organization's efforts to innovate and successfully adapt to a dynamic business environment. It is for this reason that organizations constantly seek employee contribution in the form of ideas, opinions and suggestions. In an organizational context, making these suggestions and offering inputs may have both positive and negative effects. Employee voice behavior may interrupt an organization's status quo, may discomfit authority and risk the position of the employee engaging in voice behavior in the organization. However, in the form of constructive suggestions and ideas, it is also known to positively affect managerial decisions, problem solving and organizational learning (Chou & Barron, 2015). Thus, it is crucial that employees engage in voice behavior even if others in the organization disagree. In this research, we examine voice behavior as an outcome of overall justice perceptions.Before examining the relationship in detail, we look at a few gaps that exist in literature which we attempt to examine in our study.

First, research indicates that employees may be reluctant in expressing their frank opinion about organizational practices and policies because they may fear negative consequences for themselves. Perceptions of organizational justice are pertinent here in either confirming or alleviating this fear (Takeuchi, Chen & Cheung, 2012).We use the social exchange theory as it may particularly help us examine voice behavior as a resource which the employee exchange in return for the fair treatment received from the organization (Moorman, 1991).

Second, although the existing theory and research have identified various aspects of voice behavior, this work has not been able to provide insight into identification of important antecedents and consequences that can enable strong predicting models (Chamberlin, Newton & LePine, 2017). We attempt to examine organizational justice perceptions (OJP) as an antecedent of promotive and prohibitive voice in this article.

Thirdly, voice behavior can be classified into two categories (Liang, Farh& Farh, 2012). Promotive voice behavior relates to the expression of constructive suggestions whereas, prohibitive voice behavior relates to concerns regarding organization's operations. Prohibitive voice behavior may be more crucial for the organizations in critical situations where stopping potential harm may prove to be more beneficial for the organization than developing innovative solutions. While the existing research has focused more on promotive voice behavior, both promotive and prohibitive voice behavior need to be examined to understand if they are affected differently by various organizational factors (Liang, Farh& Farh, 2012). Since both the forms of voice behavior differ in their nature, understanding of how they associate differently with OJP will lend more clarity to the existing research and may aid a more robust theoretical development that considers possible antecedents and consequences of voice behavior.

In this article, we specifically use the social exchange perspective to examine the relationship between OJP and both promotive and prohibitive forms of voice behavior with an aim to obtain insights into the individual, motivational and contextual aspects of voice behavior in an organization.We begin with explaining the constructs of employee voice behavior and organizational justice and then examine the social exchange relationship between them. Further, for the purpose of this research, an online survey was conducted with 106 working individuals from different organizations and the obtained results provide important insights into voice behavior especially prohibitive voice behavior.

Voice Behavior

Voice behavior is "an employee's constructive and change-oriented communication intended to improve the situation at hand" (Le Pine & Van Dyne, 2001; Van Dyne, Ang & Botero, 2003; Hsiung, 2012). It is important to note that voice behavior is a voluntary behavior on the part of the employees. The concept of voice behavior is different from the concept of voice frequently associated with procedural justice. Folger (1977) labelled the process by which people were allowed to provide input into decisions that affect them, as voice. There are two ways in which voice behavior differs from voice as used in procedural justice. First, while voice is an opportunity to speak up that the organization gives to its employees to ensure that there is better acceptance for the outcomes; voice behavior comes out of an employee's volition. It is looked at as a proactive behavior on the part of the employee and willingness to contribute to effective decision making at work. Second, while voice entails speaking up only for oneself, voice behavior involves contributing to larger organizational benefit (Bies & Shapiro, 1988; Folger, 1977). Thus, while voice is restricted to individual self-interest voice behavior involves consideration of the larger organizational interest and considers employee volition making it an important construct to study vis-a-vis voice.

Secondly, research has classified voice behavior under the category of citizenship behavior. However, unlike other citizenship behavior and extra-role behavior that are discretionary even when they are highly beneficial for the organization, voice behavior is different (Van Dyne, Cummings & McLean Parks, 1995). The critical aspect to consider in voice behavior is the personal cost employees incur to engage in voice behavior, which may not be present in any other form of citizenship behavior (Zhu, 2013). Voicing constructive ideas (promotive voice behavior) may result in favorable performance evaluations, visibility and increased chances of being promoted, while voicing ideas that may challenge the status quo (prohibitive voice behavior) may result in being misunderstood or other adverse social consequences (Liang, Farh& Farh, 2012; Morrison & Milliken, 2000). This makes voice behavior a complex phenomenon and creates a need to examine factors that explain it in a more holistic manner and close to how employees experience it in the real life context.

Lastly, voice behavior may mean risk for the person engaging in it and may imply a personal cost. In order to make an evaluation about the consequences of engaging in voice behavior employees turn to their immediate surroundings and interpersonal network for information. This information often comes through the employee's perception of organizational fairness (Takeuchi, Chen & Cheung, 2012). According to the fairness heuristic theory, justice perceptions of employees act as ready sources of information that help them decide their level of investment and engagement with the organization (Ambrose, Wo, Griffith, 2015:119). The theory also states that overall fairness would trigger an 'interdependent identity' where employees are looking out for larger organizational interest, whereas overall unfairness would trigger 'self-identity' where concerns for self are more salient (Johnson & Lord, 2010). This indicates that perceptions of fairness prompt employees to look beyond their personal interest and work for the larger organizational goals. Since voice behavior also involves an individual's willingness to work for larger organizational goals over personal goals, overall justice perceptions may provide a good explanation for why employees engage in voice behavior. However, research examining the effect of overall...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT