Challenging the Status Quo in a Non-challenging Way: A Dominance Complementarity View of Voice Inquiry

Project: Research

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It is often assumed that dominant leaders resist employee voice due to their confident, assertive, and forceful tendencies. Yet these leaders are also tasked with endorsing and implementing subordinate voice for the betterment of their organization. This presents a theoretical and practical puzzle as to how voicers might secure endorsement for changeoriented initiatives from dominant leaders. Drawing upon dominance complementarity theory (Kiesler, 1983), we unpack this puzzle and propose that voice inquiry, defined as speaking up with improvement-oriented suggestions in the form of an inquiry, is an effective way to secure endorsement, which refers to leader acceptance and implementation of employee suggestions from dominant leaders. Voice inquiry thus enables employees to challenge the status quo in a non-challenging way. Building on recent research that has emphasized inquiry as an effective means of exercising influence and improving the quality of relationships (Van Quaquebeke & Felps, 2018), we predict that voice inquiry conveys a sense of submission that complements dominant leaders. We hypothesize that the implicit confirmation of leaders’ positive self-views through voice inquiry will induce a heightened sense of power, that is, the feeling of being influential and in control of a dyadic relationship. In turn, this heightened sense of power will be associated with increased levels of endorsement. We further predict that although voice inquiry may help enhance endorsement, the sense of power induced by voice inquiry may motivate dominant leaders to engage in credit claiming, which refers to leaders’ taking credit for employees’ ideas. We will examine our hypotheses using a longitudinal moderated mediation design with multiple sources (participants and their leaders) and cross-lagged panel data across three time waves to provide a strong causal test of the hypothesized relationship.In sum, our work investigates a potential benefit (increased endorsement) and cost (increased credit claiming) of speaking up in the form of inquiry, it thus represents a novel line of research in the voice literature that has important practical implications for how employees can speak up more effectively in the workplace.


Project number9043426
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/09/22 → …