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Edoardo Della Torre, Alessia Gritti, and Adrian Wilkinson

Employee voice (EV) refers to all the ways and means through which employees have a say in the decisions that affect their work and the overall running of their organization. It involves different domains and topics and occurs through a variety of channels (direct and indirect, formal and informal, individual and collective). The main distinction is between direct voice channels, through which employees have the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions directly to managers without the mediation of representatives, and indirect voice channels, through which EV is expressed by representatives, usually elected from the wider group of employees. Since the last decades of the 20th century, EV has become a central topic in human resource management (HRM), industrial relations, (IR) and organizational behavior (OB) literature, providing researchers and practitioners with an extensive and ever-increasing amount of knowledge. However, each discipline has created its own conceptualization of the meanings of and purposes for EV, leading EV to become a contested terrain, characterized by research silos and competing literatures. While the OB perspective concentrates on the informal and prosocial nature of individual EV, the IR approach is mainly focused on formal structures for collective EV and the contrasting interests of management and workers, and the HRM approach tends to emphasize the role of direct EV as a component of the wider HRM systems that may generate higher organizational outcomes. Integrative approaches that can bring together different disciplinary perspectives are therefore required for a more comprehensive understanding of how EV takes shape in organizations and affects individual and organizational outcomes. Greater attention should also be paid to the multidimensionality of EV, investigating further how it relates to employee silence and to other phenomena, such as ethical employee voice and whistle-blowing. Finally, little is known about the emerging forms of EV related to workplace digitalization and working remotely.

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Qualitative research designs provide future-oriented plans for undertaking research. Designs should describe how to effectively address and answer a specific research question using qualitative data and qualitative analysis techniques. Designs connect research objectives to observations, data, methods, interpretations, and research outcomes. Qualitative research designs focus initially on collecting data to provide a naturalistic view of social phenomena and understand the meaning the social world holds from the point of view of social actors in real settings. The outcomes of qualitative research designs are situated narratives of peoples’ activities in real settings, reasoned explanations of behavior, discoveries of new phenomena, and creating and testing of theories. A three-level framework can be used to describe the layers of qualitative research design and conceptualize its multifaceted nature. Note, however, that qualitative research is a flexible and not fixed process, unlike conventional positivist research designs that are unchanged after data collection commences. Flexibility provides qualitative research with the capacity to alter foci during the research process and make new and emerging discoveries. The first or methods layer of the research design process uses social science methods to rigorously describe organizational phenomena and provide evidence that is useful for explaining phenomena and developing theory. Description is done using empirical research methods for data collection including case studies, interviews, participant observation, ethnography, and collection of texts, records, and documents. The second or methodological layer of research design offers three formal logical strategies to analyze data and address research questions: (a) induction to answer descriptive “what” questions; (b) deduction and hypothesis testing to address theory oriented “why” questions; and (c) abduction to understand questions about what, how, and why phenomena occur. The third or social science paradigm layer of research design is formed by broad social science traditions and approaches that reflect distinct theoretical epistemologies—theories of knowledge—and diverse empirical research practices. These perspectives include positivism, interpretive induction, and interpretive abduction (interpretive science). There are also scholarly research perspectives that reflect on and challenge or seek to change management thinking and practice, rather than producing rigorous empirical research or evidence based findings. These perspectives include critical research, postmodern research, and organization development. Three additional issues are important to future qualitative research designs. First, there is renewed interest in the value of covert research undertaken without the informed consent of participants. Second, there is an ongoing discussion of the best style to use for reporting qualitative research. Third, there are new ways to integrate qualitative and quantitative data. These are needed to better address the interplay of qualitative and quantitative phenomena that are both found in everyday discourse, a phenomenon that has been overlooked.