Challenging the status quo in a non-challenging way : A dominance complementarity view of voice inquiry

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationPersonnel Psychology
Online published8 Oct 2023
Publication statusOnline published - 8 Oct 2023


Speaking up directly promotes voice endorsement because it enhances communication clarity. Yet, voicers may hesitate to engage in direct voice because it is a dominant communication tactic that may upset, impose on, embarrass, or undermine their leader, potentially resulting in a backlash, greater workload, or a tainted image. These concerns present a puzzle regarding whether alternative communication tactics exist whereby voicers can secure endorsement for improvement-oriented initiatives without directly challenging their leader. To address this puzzle, we introduce voice inquiry—expressing improvement-oriented suggestions or concerns in the form of a question—as a submissive communication tactic to secure endorsement. Drawing upon dominance complementarity theory, we argue that voice inquiry prompts endorsement because it enhances leader's sense of power. Given the complementary effect of submissiveness and dominance, we further predict that this effect will be stronger when leader dominance is high. We conducted three Pilot Studies to unpack the content, motivation, prevalence, and submissive nature of voice inquiry. Building on this foundation, we conducted a multi-wave field study with 373 employees and 178 leaders in a transportation company (Study 1) and a vignette experiment with 243 full-time workers (Study 2). Across studies, our research demonstrates voice inquiry as a theoretically driven communication tactic that increases endorsement by activating leader sense of power, particularly among dominant leaders. ©2023 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Research Area(s)

  • endorsement, leader dominance, sense of power, voice inquiry