Hearsay, Rumor, and the Credibility of Secondhand Accounts of Employee Voice: How Manager Lay Theories Are Inconsistent With Behavior



Employees often speak up about problems based on information received from others, but lay theories suggest that managers should discount these “secondhand accounts” of prohibitive voice. Drawing on the heuristic-systematic model of persuasion, we argue that managers’ beliefs about how they will evaluate secondhand versus firsthand accounts are distinct from their judgments when encountering either type of prohibitive voice. We first outline managerial lay theories that secondhand accounts are less credible and less complete, and therefore less likely to require managerial action than firsthand accounts. Using archival data of over two million instances of employees speaking up through companies’ internal reporting systems, we show that manager behaviors are inconsistent with these lay theories – managers are more likely to substantiate secondhand than firsthand accounts. Finally, two experimental studies 1) illustrate the differences between lay theories of how most managers are forecasted to respond to secondhand accounts and their actual behaviors when encountering instances of firsthand or secondhand voice, and 2) provide evidence of mechanisms underlying these effects. We discuss implications of finding that, despite lay theories that secondhand accounts should be discounted, managers are more likely to find credible and take action on voice from secondhand sources compared to firsthand sources.

This seminar will take place in T10-67. To join online, find the details below:

Meeting ID: 995 3367 5771

Passcode: 820030