Invisible Hands, Invisible Objectives: Bringing Workplace Law and Public Policy into Focus

By Stephen F. Befort; John W. Budd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Voice

FROM SIX YEAR-OLD RUTHIE in the comic strip “One Big Happy” who laments, “Nobody listens to me, and I don't like it! I'm never the boss of anything! It's my life, and I think I should have a say in it!” to the Sons of Liberty who famously demanded “no taxation without representation,” voice is deeply ingrained in American culture. Americans want a voice in the political arena, in civic organizations, and in their social lives. And it is also true in the workplace. Consider how you want your job conditions determined—your work schedule established, your tasks prioritized, your methods for best accomplishing your responsibilities, and the like. Individuals we talk to uniformly respond that they want to talk with their managers and have input into these decisions. Numerous formal surveys—many from the United States, but from all over the world, as well—document this same preference. No matter how the questions are worded, the result is the same: employees want a voice in the workplace.1

Academics and practitioners define voice in many ways. Albert Hirschman essentially defined voice as a complaint mechanism, while some employers see suggestion boxes as providing voice. Advocates of high-performance human resources practices narrowly see voice as employee involvement in improving business efficiency through problem-solving teams and other methods. Free-market advocates see voice as expressed by one's feet in the form of quitting. Labor movements around the world equate legitimate employee voice with collective bargaining and other activities pursued by labor unions. In this book, we adopt an inclusive perspective and define voice as expressing opinions

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