Having "a say": Forms of voice in Australian call centres

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Employee Relations, 2014, 36 (3), pp. 214 - 234
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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to bridge a gap in the call centre literature by considering how individual employees perceive their level of voice over workplace decisions. The inclusion of direct voice mechanisms is noteworthy as these are forms that have received much less attention vis-à-vis indirect voice. Design/methodology/approach: A mixed-method approach was utilized comprising focus groups and questionnaires from over 350 respondents in nine call centres in Australia. Findings: The most pervasive type of employee voice found across all call centres was through direct channels. The team leader was viewed as especially important in terms of employees asserting that they have some influence over workplace issues. There was evidence that the greater the number of voice mechanisms available the higher the perception of autonomy and influence over work tasks, pace of work and quality standards. Research limitations/implications: Greater consideration is needed in the voice literature at how employees perceive different mechanisms and how institutionalized and legitimate these are within organizations. There appeared to be minimal positive feedback on how union's influenced the workplace, even in unionized environments. We call for further research on how union representation and direct voice channels work together and the impact on key individual and organizational outcomes. Practical implications: Employees may view the provision of multiple voice channels more favourable than any particular mechanism. The role of the team leader appears especially crucial in positive perceptions of employee voice. Originality/value: Call centre environments may be changing for the better and effective team leader/employee relationships appear to be at the heart of these changes. The paper demonstrates that direct voice mechanisms dominate the case study sites and that employee perceptions of "being heard" are as important as the actual voice mechanisms. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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