Employee Voices and Social Sustainability

ISE Magazine – Volume 48: Number 09
By Cindy A. Schipani, Frances J. Milliken, Norman D. Bishara and Andrea M. Prado

Employee is a vital part of a company. Employees, like any other human being, have the need of empowerment and voice. Failing to appreciate that may lead to widespread employee dissatisfaction that contribute to company’s demise. Thus, higher ups should care more about their employees, especially if they choose to remain silent.

There are several reasons why employees choose to remain silent, like worry that speaking up will hamper their pay and job security, fear that their managers might react negatively, or even because they believe nothing will be done to resolve the issue – that speaking up is futile. This may one day lead to company’s downfall, because employees often have early information about important flaws in processes or products. Take GM’s faulty ignition switches as an example. Employees also need the ability to share information and communicate about issues, both within and across levels of the hierarchy to perform effectively. The last reason that most article neglect is that what happen at work – the climate – actually affects their well-being, both inside and outside of the workplace.

Employees are shaped by what they are exposed to and what they experience at work. The spillover hypothesis states that conditions in one arena of life likely have a direct influence on how people feel and behave in other parts of their lives. Thus, work satisfaction has a positive relationship to life satisfaction. Your dissatisfaction at work improves the chance of unhappiness outside your workplace. Unhappiness may lead to stress, and research has shown that stress has effects on life satisfaction, physical, and mental health. Employees can also bring home the dysfunctional behavior at work, such as believing that speaking up is futile, and thus contribute less to the society.

Voice opportunities at work affect the employees’ work-related attitudes At work, lack of voice opportunities leads the employees to believe that the company’s procedures are not fair – no procedural justice. Procedural justice perceptions are an important predictor of organizational identification and commitment, job satisfaction, and turnover intentions. Loss of self-efficacy due to fear can also loss of motivation in work – a “learned helplessness”. Voice opportunities at work also affect the employees’ lives outside of work. When employees think that their voice is appreciated at work, they tend to believe the same when it comes to community. Employees will also feel positive emotions regarding work that make them more committed to work.

To summarize, appreciating the opinions of employees is not only good for employees, it is also good for the organization. Additional effect is positive implications for the social sustainability of employees’ communities.