A Relational Perspective on Employees’ Voice Behaviour: Evidence from China



In organisations, employees regularly face a decision on whether or not to speak up (i.e., voice) when they have potentially useful information or valuable ideas. From the organisation's point of view, employees' voice provides not only important information for managers to make appropriate decisions, but also creative ideas and suggestions that stimulate organisational innovation. However, speaking up may be a tough choice for employees to make, because of the risks and uncertainty involved in the consequences of such behaviour. As result, there has been a growing body of research focused on better understanding the motives underlying employee voice. Nevertheless, most of those studies have exclusively focused on the self-interest motive of voice (e.g., employees' perceived efficacy of voice, or perceived safety or risks of voice), and have overlooked the prosocial motive of voice, that is, the desire to help other people (e.g., the leader, team, or organisation).

In order to fill this gap, my first research question in the present study is: how can leaders promote employees' prosocial motive to speak up? Drawing on Social Exchange Theory, I focus on employees' prosocial motive towards their leader, that is, employees' felt obligation to the leader, defined as the extent to which a follower feels obligated to help the leader reach his/her goals. Specifically, I examine the mediation effect of employees' felt obligation to the leader in the relationship between transformational leadership and voice.

In addition, my second research question is whether or not leaders can use the same voice-promoting strategy to all employees? I hypothesise that the above mediation effect will hold for some employees, but not for others. Specifically, I investigate whether employees' power distance orientation moderates the above mediation linkage. Power distance orientation is an individual's beliefs about the extent to which superiors are entitled to status and privilege, and the extent to which individuals should show full respect and obedience to their superiors.

Professor Xiao-Hua (Frank) Wang received BA and MS degrees (both in psychology) from Beijing Normal University in China, and a PhD degree in Industrial/Organisational Psychology from University of Western Ontario in Canada. He is now an associate professor in the department of organisation and human resource in the School of Business at Renmin University in China. Before joining Renmin University, he held a faculty position at Vlerick Business School in Belgium. Professor Wang's research concerns leadership, motivation, and cross-cultural management.