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Reconceptualising employee silence: problems and prognosis

Jimmy Donaghey, [Niall Cullinane, Tony Dundon, and Adrian Wilkinson]
Work, Employment And Society 25,1, 51-67

Abstract

A growing literature has emerged on employee silence, located within the field of organisational behaviour. Scholars have investigated when and how employees articulate voice and when and how they will opt for silence. While offering many insights, this analysis is inherently one-sided in its interpretation of silence as a product of employee motivations. An alternative reading of silence is offered which focuses on the role of management. Using the non-union employee representation literature for illustrative purposes, the significance of management in structuring employee silence is considered. Highlighted are the ways in which management, through agenda-setting and institutional structures, can perpetuate silence over a range of issues, thereby organising employees out of the voice process. These considerations are redeployed to offer a dialectical interpretation of employee silence in a conceptual framework to assist further research and analysis.