To what extent should there be ‘employee voice’ within the workplace?


In recent decades the topic of ‘employee voice’ within a business organization has come up for discussion in management literature.  At the same time, business analysts have explored in depth various possible distribution of powers within the workplace and the dynamics involved therein.  Terms such as ‘involvement’ and ‘participation’ have been elaborated and explained as well.  Yet, it is safe to say that no universal consensus has been achieved so far, with employee unions and elected representatives on their behalf constantly contesting and claiming for more favourable terms and conditions of work.  This essay will attempt to answer the topic question, along with its broader implications.

Employee Voice in the backdrop of discrimination:

Since business enterprises operate in the socio-political setup of nations, it is important to analyze the issue of ‘employee voice’ in this broad context.  For example, a 1998 survey conducted in the UK involving 500 employees from various small business organizations reveals some telling statistics.  It shows that racial minorities like Asians and Africans are less likely to find work in smaller firms.  So is the case for women, irrespective of their racial background.  Eligible workers between the age group of 25-45 are also less likely to find acceptance, especially in very small firms (Taylor & Bain, 2007, p.32). There are a higher proportion of the uneducated personnel, many among those having not passed high school.  Given the small business sector is only minimally legislated, it could be concluded that the free market setup in which such organizations function is not leading to a healthier society through provisions for greater employee voice. (Phillips, Estelle M., p.78)

Scholarship on the UK business environment also suggests that the condition of women workers has only improved marginally over the last thirty years.  For instance, the results published by the Equal Opportunities Commission gives a factual description of the status and trends in this area of corporate affairs.  It confirms that while managers projected themselves as professionals and advocated the concept of equal opportunities, there were definite cases of discrimination based on gender.  Some measures are required toward ensuring that managers match their practices to policies.  This further shows that concepts such as employee ‘involvement’ and ‘participation’ have not led to a fair and just workplace and also makes a case for expanding the scope of employee empowerment from what it is presently. (Phillips, Estelle M., p.79)

The decline of trade unions and its effect on employees:

The imbalance of power between the management and the employees is evident from the fact that large numbers of business corporations in the UK are in support of a vibrant trade union.  Employee voice is more prominent in the freer pockets of the UK economy, which are more unionized and are more likely to receive additional benefits. This is so because the unions hold some amount of power in negotiating complex schemes with their employers. Sometimes, the top management give-in to such demands from the unions as a strategy to divert them from addressing more important issues.  Ideally, such results have to be replicated in the larger companies as well. (Farnham, David, and Lesley Giles., p.15)

That it is the top management that is predominantly in control of the decision making process is exemplified by the fact that employers do not offer occupational pensions to the non-professional class of workers as that would reduce their turnover and protect investments in training. (Casey, Bernard., p.234)  Similarly, part-time, inexperienced or female employees are unlikely to be offered pension schemes or sick pay as they are perceived “as less attached to work and as less likely to be interested in deferred benefits” (Casey, Bernard., p.239). Obviously, the prevailing approach to employee management is a case of discrimination based on gender and ethnicity amongst other things and exposes a disconnection between the will of the employees and the decision-making processes adopted by management.

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