How your voice can influence whether you are chosen for a team at work
"What we say within a group, the ideas we suggest and the way we support others, signals something about who we are to our coworkers. It can attract people to us or repel them," said Melissa Chamberlin, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Iowa State University, and co-author of a paper recently published in Journal of Management.
Chamberlin and her research team demonstrate in the paper how two distinct methods of communicating work-related issues influence reputations and the formation of teams to complete short-term projects. They discovered that individuals with "supportive voice" which fosters trust and cooperation, are more likely to be chosen for a team than those with "challenging voice" which is more task-oriented.
Individuals with "supportive voice" are more likely to be chosen for a team than those with "challenging voice".
A voice that challenges the status quo and offers suggestions for improvement. Despite some disadvantages, such as the perception of criticism or conflict, challenge voice tends to indicate a worker's competence or expertise. Chamberlin stated that managers, particularly in industries that are dynamic and fast-paced, frequently value this communication behavior as something that can assist teams in completing tasks efficiently and effectively.
"Supportive voice is still about speaking up in the workplace, but it's looking at what's going well in the group or team. It might defend the status quo by saying there's value in what the team is already doing," said Chamberlin.
A person's approachability and reliability are denoted by a reassuring voice. It fosters strong interpersonal relationships, which, according to Chamberlin, influences a team's ability to communicate and coordinate efforts in order to achieve its objectives.
A person's approachability and reliability are denoted by a reassuring voice.
Over a four-month period, the researchers collected data from a cohort of full-time, first-year Master of Business Administration students to better understand the effects of the two communication behaviors on team formation. Students were assigned to different teams to complete projects on a regular basis and then asked to rate their teammates' use of challenging and supportive voices, quality of work, reputation, and trust. Near the conclusion of the study, students were permitted to form teams without guidance from the MBA office.
The results of the study revealed that students who scored highly on challenging voice earned a reputation for producing high-quality work, but students preferred to collaborate with those who used supportive voice frequently. Chamberlain stated that the results were unexpected.
"Because challenging voice is the predominant form of speaking up we encourage in classrooms and as managers, we thought it was going to be strong driver of people selecting team members later. But as it turns out, this more supportive voice that helps establish relationships and a sense of trust amongst individuals in the group was more important," Chamberlin said.
Although the researchers noted that having both types of voice would be ideal, supportive voice was found to be a stronger facilitator of team formation.
Students who scored highly on challenging voice earned a reputation for producing high-quality work, but students preferred to collaborate with those who used supportive voice.
The paper's findings, according to Chamberlin, may help staff members understand that how they speak up can have a significant impact on later informal teaming up and assist them in advancing into leadership positions. As for managers, Chamberlin suggested that the findings could encourage them to encourage and provide space for more supportive voice by coaching this type of behavior and rewarding employees who speak up in a supportive manner.
According to Chamberlin, "There might be times that challenging voice reigns supreme but other situations where supportive voice becomes more critical for a team," "Supportive voicers can keep teams together to make sure the work gets done."
Journal Reference: Daniel W. Newton, Melissa Chamberlin, Cynthia K. Maupin, Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Dorothy R. Carter. Voice as a Signal of Human and Social Capital in Team Assembly Decisions. Journal of Management, 2021; 014920632110313 DOI: 10.1177/01492063211031303
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