Employee Relations

Effects of Control and Identification on Employee Voice

When you think of employee voice, what do you think of? Do you think of a dissatisfied employee voicing his issues to his supervisor? Do you think of an innovative employee voicing her ideas for a new process? Both are valid examples of employee voice. Voice is defined as employee communication on issues of work processes. Two key factors influencing the likelihood of an employee engaging in voice are personal control and organizational identification.

How Does Personal Control Relate to Voice?

Personal control is defined as perceptions of autonomy and impact in the employee’s work environment.  Therefore, when an employee has autonomy in his workplace, meaning he feels a sense of independence and choice in his work, and has a sense of impact or control over the outcomes in the workplace, he can be considered to have high personal control. If an employee feels like he has no control over his work or the organizational outcomes, he can be said to have low personal control. Employees with high and low personal control both often demonstrate high levels of employee voice. The difference is in the motivations underlying the voicing.
  • Low personal control. Employees with low personal control are often motivated to improve their situation or status. This is a dissatisfaction-based motivation, meaning the employee is dissatisfied with the current situation and wants to change it.
  • High personal control. Employees with high personal control tend to believe their actions have impact and feel great sense of autonomy to act; therefore, they are motivated to seek the opportunity to improve organizational outcomes by voicing their ideas for change. This is called an expectancy-based motivation, meaning the employee expects to make a difference.
  • Neither high nor low personal control? In this case, the employee doesn’t have a strong motivation to voice for change, therefore he or she often engages in low levels of voice.

The Role of Organizational Identification

Organizational identification is the connection and loyalty an employee has toward the organization, such that the employee intensely feels its successes and failures. Organizational identification affects the motivations behind employee voice differently (i.e., dissatisfaction-based and expectancy-based). Organizational identification dampens the dissatisfaction-based motivation and reinforces the expectancy-based motivation to engage in voice. Employees with strong organizational identification and low personal control may overlook aspects of their job that are dissatisfying, because they trust that the situation will change on its own. In turn, they will be less likely to voice their concerns for change (motivation dampened). On the other hand, those with high organizational identification and high personal control will likely be much more motivated to voice their ideas to improve the organizational processes, because they want to see the organization succeed and expect that they can play a role it doing that (motivation reinforced).

Implications for Practice

Due to the complexities of the workplace, managers often rely on employees’ opinions and suggestions for innovations and changes to organizational processes. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to motivating and empowering employees to voice their ideas. Below are some ways that personal control and organizational identification can be modified to influence voice.
  • Increasing personal control. Personal control can be increased by job enrichment, meaning giving employees meaningful tasks that challenge them and utilize their skills and abilities. Giving employees the proper training and resources to take ownership of their work, and developing a clear and valued reward system based on their performance, will lead to a sense of personal control and, in turn, an increase in voice.
  • Avoiding moderate personal control. Because moderate levels of personal control lead to no motivation for employees to engage in voice, it is important not to implement interventions that provide moderate personal control (e.g., halfway interventions that send mixed messages to employees).
  • Increasing organizational identification. Implementing practices that increase organizational identification (e.g., fostering employee pride in what the organization stands for) along with interventions to increase personal control will likely lead to an increase in voice.
  • Purposefully reducing voice. On the other hand, by implementing practices to increase organizational identification along with inventions that restrict personal control (e.g., delegating little authority to employees or soliciting limited employee input with making decisions) will lead to reduction in employee voice. Reduced voice may be desired at certain times. For example, voice may be disruptive when the implementation of idea is important rather than a generation of new ideas.
Efforts to enhance voice can also lead to other positive organizational outcomes. Organizational identification-enhancing practices can result in greater employee loyalty and commitment.  Also, efforts to increase personal control can also lead to an increase in job satisfaction, reduction of stress, and improved job performance.

Lexy Adkins


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Tangirala, S., & Ramanujam, R. (2008). Exploring nonlinearity in employee voice: The effects of personal control and organizational identification. Academy of Management Journal, 51, 1189-1203.