Conceptualisation of Employee Voice: Definitions, Typologies and Measurement

Larysa Botha, Renier Steyn


Background: Voice, as an important employee behaviour, channels ideas, concerns, and suggestions upward in the organisation and is often the only way for managers to become aware of issues and problems that, potentially, may be detrimental to the organisation’s performance. Aim: The aim of this article is to present a review on the conceptualisation of voice, with the focus on the different ways in which the concept is defined, categorised and measured. This is required as a comprehensive and contemporary operationalisation of voice and will ensure that future research is linked to the dominant body of knowledge. Setting: Literature presents employee voice behaviour in divergent ways, which applies to the definition, typologies and measurement of voice. This divergence poses a challenge for researchers and practitioners alike. Method: A comprehensive literature review was conducted to obtain a large spectrum of definitions, categorisations and assessments of voice. These were examined for breadth of adoption, consensus in terms of elements and, in the case of assessment, the acceptability of psychometric properties of measuring instruments. Results: After reviewing a substantial number of the articles published in peer-reviewed journals between the years 1970 and 2019, the three most popular definitions of voice are presented, the three most common conceptualisations on the forms/types of voice identified, and three most-used measuring scales with acceptable validity and reliability acknowledged. The definition, typologies, and measuring instrument proposed by Maynes and Podsakoff (2014) seems to be the standard in voice research. Their theorising on all three aspects is well accepted and forms the basis for many recent studies on voice. Conclusion: Building on previous research, and considering recent publications, the comprehensive conceptualisation of voice is best described by the seminal work of Maynes and Podsakoff (2014), which integrates the extant knowledge on the topic and how it is operationalised. Managerial implications: Researchers and practitioners are now aware of most adopted and authoritative conceptualisations of employee voice behaviour, which should provide them with greater confidence to engage in discussions on the topic as well as in facilitating research in the future.

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