Managerial silencing of employee voice

Managerial silencing of employee voice
Managerial silencing of employee voice

Principal speaker

Professor Jimmy Donaghey

(with co-authors Tony Dundon, Niall Cullinane, Tony Dobbins and Eugene Hickland)

Employee voice has become an issue of much focus in contemporary industrial relations, human resource management and organisational behaviour literatures. Much of the focus has been concerned with evaluating the different forms and processes of voice in terms of its alleged efficacy, worker representation and performance. This paper however looks at what may be regarded as the antithesis of employee voice: worker silence. As will be outlined, the literature to date has been dominated by scholars from organisational behaviour, and to a lesser extent labour process and critical management studies research. However, this paper will show that employment relations scholarship can make a valuable contribution to this area by focussing on how management can silence workers. The paper develops and advances empirically the conceptual approach of Donaghey et al (2011). To do this, we review the literature on worker silence to date and highlight some key weaknesses. We argue how an employment relations perspective can be instructive about worker silence and the neglected role of management in silencing worker voice. After outlining the nature of our study's focus on the implementation of the EU's Information and Consultation Directive in the UK and Ireland, the data from three case studies will show how management responded to avoid elements of the Directive to prevent worker voice, i.e. how management acted in silencing workers. The paper will close by discussing the implications of the analysis for broader research into worker voice and silence.


Jimmy Donaghey is Professor of Employment Relations, Industrial Relations Research Unit, University of Warwick. Prior to joining Warwick, Jimmy was Lecturer in Management at Queen's University, Belfast from where he received his PhD.

His research focuses on three broadly, overlapping issues: employee representation, comparative industrial relations and the international regulation of employment relations. Recent projects have included a project comparing the effects of the EU's Information and Consultation Directive on employee voice in the UK and Republic of Ireland; a comparative analysis of the effect of the Information and Consultation Directive in six divergent EU economies; and the response to the Rana Plaza disaster.

Professor Donaghey is also Associate Editor of the Human Resource Management Journal and has published in journals such as the British Journal of Industrial Relations, Human Resource Management, Human Relations and Organization.
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