Dr Rob Yeung is a chartered psychologist and coach at consulting firm Talentspace

How often do you speak up – or express ‘employee voice’ – at work? Organisational psychologists define employee voice as discretionary communication about work-related issues – for example, communicating verbally during meetings when you could reasonably either speak up or say nothing.

A recent study by Canadian researchers Kyle Brykman at the University of Windsor and Jana Raver at Queen’s University looked at the criteria that managers used to assess employee performance. Gratifyingly, the investigators found that managers prioritised employees’ voice quality over mere voice frequency. In other words, employees who spoke up with genuinely helpful comments or ideas tended to get rated as more ready for promotion than employees who simply spoke a lot.

Four factors of positivity

The researchers identified a useful message as having up to four characteristics:

  • rationale: evidence or logic supporting the suggestion or comment
  • feasibility: consideration of the extent to which an idea can be implemented by the team given constraints such as resources and time
  • alignment: the extent to which an idea fits with the team or organisation’s values, goals and ways of working.
  • novelty: the degree to which a suggestion is innovative.

Speaking up does not automatically make a good impression. To make a positive impression and be considered ready for promotion, aim to make comments that include several of the four characteristics identified by research.

More information

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