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The Value of Voice Through Employee Ownership: Fabric or Fabrication? [PhD Thesis]

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Judith Watson


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The aim of this thesis is to explore whether employee voice in an employee-owned enterprise is different to that in conventional businesses. Employee voice encompasses the different ways employees can express their ideas or concerns at work. Contemporary knowledge tends to draw empirical evidence from conventional businesses where ‘efficiency’ is a key objective of voice mechanisms. However, there is growing evidence suggesting that voice which does not correspond to this objective can go ‘unheard’. There is a gap in the literature; less is known about alternative mechanisms through which voice may be heard, such as employee-ownership. Employee-ownership differs to conventional business. Differentiating factors include employees having a ‘right’ to a voice through its ‘embeddedness’ in the governance structure expressed through ‘sophisticated’ processes. This suggests employee voice is part of an organisation’s ‘fabric’. However, employee ‘compliance’, ‘organisational hierarchy’ and ‘management resistance’ are factors which can hamper voice in such enterprises suggesting it is a ‘fabrication’. All of these factors are explored in the thesis which adopts a subjectivist and interpretivist philosophical approach and uses a qualitative single case study of an employee-owned organisation providing social care services. The research methods were semi-structured interviews, observations and documentary evidence. The empirical evidence suggested mixed findings. Employee-ownership did provide opportunities for voice to be heard as part of its fabric. However, the pressures on, and dominance of, senior executives counteracted and weakened voice suggesting it was a fabrication. Employee-ownership was regarded as a management tool that would achieve the objective of company efficiency. A key finding is that, even when voice did reflect this objective, it often went unheard. The conclusion is that the way employee voice is heard is not because of a mechanism, but in the way it is valued. The contribution to knowledge of this thesis is; the difference in employee voice is created because of the way in which it is valued.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Watson JF

Publication type: Authored Book

Publication status: Published

Year: 2019

Number of Pages: 255

Print publication date: 01/03/2019

Acceptance date: 01/03/2019

Publisher: Newcastle University Business School

Place Published: Newcastle University