Although few quantitative studies have taken place that allow for an assessment of aspects of Leadership influence on employee Voice, it is clear that Leadership plays a decisive role with regards to the emergence of Voice. Leaders are inherently implicated in the process of Voice development as they are its target/recipients. Employees are continually confronted with the dilemma of speaking up or remaining silent, as to speak up entails, by definition, a degree of confrontation with someone in occupying a higher arena. For employees, the process most commonly involves raising an issue in order to convince those in leading positions to devote organizational resources towards its resolution (French & Raven, 1959).
“Speaking up” in situations like this can feel risky for employees also because it means having to point out a need for improvement to individuals responsible for the status quo within an organization, and who are likely to feel personally attached to it (Detert et al., 2007). Moreover, as Leaders have the authority to administer rewards and punishments, their actions are perceived as salient signals for behavior (Depret & Fiske, 1993). An initial motivation for Voice is more likely to translate in behavior when the potential benefits (getting the problem solved & rewards e.g.
, money, promotion, recognition etc.) outweigh potential costs (demotion, humiliation or loss of social standing) (Milliken et al., 2003).
Since the cost and benefit of Voice may depend on to whom the employees speak to, Voice behavior is very target sensitive and, thus, the behavior and attributes of a Leader are significant factors in the Voice process. According to (Detert et al., 2007), management openness is positively associated with Voice. Managerial openness describes an atmosphere where employees feel that management listens to them, takes interest in their ideas, treats them fairly, and takes action to resolve any issues raised when appropriate.
Because Voice involves the suggestion to approach something differently, a Leader’s behavior that signals openness to change becomes a critical contextual influence on employee’ willingness to speak up. Thus, when Leaders transmit signals manifesting a willingness to act on subordinate Voice, their subordinates’ motivation should enhance; when such signals are absent, on the other hand, the subordinates’ motivation is restricted. Managerial openness and the Leadership traits associated with it, thus, play a significant role in in maintaining initial motivation to speak up on the part of employees (Milliken et al., 2003). Moreover, (Saunders, Sheppard, Knight, & Roth, 1992) have suggested that an employee’s perception of their supervisor’s style as a Voice manager significantly affects the possibility that they will speak up. Employees who perceive their supervisors as approachable and responsive are more likely to express their Voice. Employees who feel uncertain about the reactions of their supervisor as well as about how to approach them, are less likely to Voice their thoughts and feelings. In conclusion, ethical Leadership is linked to an individual’s willingness to Voice in a significant manner.
Ethical Leaders, according to (Brown, Treviño, ; Harrison, 2005) speak out publicly against inappropriate, unjust organizational actions and behaviors, and give priority to doing the right thing. From a social learning perspective (Bandura, 1977), when Leaders create a fair work environment, they convey high moral standards to employees and encourage them to Voice opinions and suggestions, not only about ethical matters but work-related processes and work context more generally. Finally, when employees are managed fairly by the Leader and are able to have trust in their relationship, they are more likely to assess this relationship in terms of social rather than economic exchange. Constructive Voice behavior is considered by employees as one way to retaliate for such treatment.