The Voice Cultivation Process: How Team Members Can Help Upward Voice Live on to Implementation
The upward voicing of ideas is vital to organizational performance. Yet power differences between voicers and those with authority may result in valuable ideas being overlooked. In this ethnographic, 31-month longitudinal study of a multi-disciplinary team in the healthcare sector, we examine how upwardly voiced ideas can endure to reach implementation. Of 208 upwardly voiced ideas, most were rejected in the moment, but 49 reached implementation despite appearing to be initially rejected. These ideas were kept alive by other team members who later drew upon and revived the initial ideas through what we call the voice cultivation process. We detail this process and describe five pathways through which voiced ideas stayed alive to reach implementation by overcoming different forms of resistance. We illustrate how the allyship of others can help voice live on beyond its initial utterance to reach implementation and generate change, even when the person who initially spoke up is no longer on the team or advocating for the idea. By reconceptualizing voice as a collective, interactional process rather than a one-time dyadic event, this paper develops new theory on how employees can help one another’s voice be heard to positively impact their teams and organizations.