Using Observational Research Methods to Study Voice and Silence in Organizations

Authors: Meinecke, A. L., Klonek, F. E., & Kauffeld, S. (2016)

The current article offers a behaviour-based perspective on employee voice and silence in organizations. Specifically, we outline two observational approaches to study the dynamics of voice and silence in real time: coding of voice behaviour using a behavioural instrument, and behavioural rating scales. In an exemplary study, we sampled repeated measurements of voice and silence behaviour based on videotaped supervisor–subordinate interactions during annual appraisal interviews. Both approaches provided insights into temporal processes of silence and voice. At the conversational event level, behavioural coding revealed significant sequential patterns between supervisor behaviour and subordinate voice. Findings showed that supervisors’ listening behaviour played a central role in stimulating subordinate voice at the event level of conversational conduct, whereas discussing the subordinates’ past performing, sharing knowledge and procedural statements had the opposite effect and were significantly less likely to initiate subordinate voice. Finally, our results indicated better reliabilities for voice in contrast to silence when observer ratings were used. We discuss strengths and limitations of both approaches and outline how they complement traditional survey measures. Moreover, we provide recommendations for steering more effective appraisal interviews. 

Observational research methods; performance appraisal interviews; problem-solving; silence; voice

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