Organizational Justice Can Encourage Speaking Up at Work

Most organizations want their employees to make creative suggestions to improve the organization. The importance of these contributions (collectively known as employee voice behavior) appears to be increasing, particularly as organizations try to “innovate from within,” as opposed to relying as much on external sources for their innovative ideas. However, this desire for employee voice comes with a challenge: employees may be reluctant to share ideas, particularly if they challenge the status quo in the organization or their workgroup. Therefore, if employees are going to use their voice, it is important that employees feel they can trust their bosses and the management of the organization.


With the goal of improving our understanding of the factors that impact employee voice behavior, a recent study (Takeuchi, Chen, & Cheung, 2012) examined the role that justice perceptions may play in increasing or decreasing voice behavior. Specifically, the authors examined the unique influence of three types of justice on employee voice behavior. Among their hypotheses, the authors suggested a positive relationship between interpersonal justice (being treated fairly by other people) and employee voice behavior; they also suggested that perceptions of procedural justice (fairness of policies and procedures) would impact the interpersonal justice-employee voice relationship. Using a large sample of employee-manager pairings, the authors found solid support for their hypotheses.


The results of this study demonstrate the importance of having high levels of interpersonal justice (particularly between employees and their managers) for encouraging employee voice behavior. The results also suggest that this relationship may be influenced by employees’ perceptions of other types of justice, such as procedural and distributive justice. As a whole, this study provides further support for the notion that organizations should be concerned with the justice perceptions of their employees, not only for more traditional reasons such as maintaining high job satisfaction, but for encouraging employee voice behavior as well.


Takeuchi, R., Chen, Z., & Cheung, S. Y. (2012). Applying uncertainty management theory to employee voice behavior: An integrative investigation. Personnel Psychology, 65, 283-323.

Image credit: istockphoto/Drazen Zigic