The impact of supervisor–employee self-protective implicit voice theory alignment

Aleksander P.J. Ellis, Christopher O.L.H. Porter, Ke Michael Mai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Self-protective implicit voice theories (IVTs) represent individuals’ deeply rooted schemas regarding the risks and appropriateness of speaking up at work. Drawing from the behavioural confirmation model and expectancy violation theory, we argue that alignment (or congruence) between supervisors’ and employees’ self-protective IVTs will result in higher quality leader-member exchange (LMX) relationships. We also argue that higher quality LMX will, in turn, result in higher performance evaluations from those supervisors. Results from cross-level polynomial regression analyses of a sample of 900 governmental employees with matched responses from their supervisors partially supported our predictions. We found evidence of congruence effects on job performance evaluations through LMX, particularly when employees and their supervisors had weaker self-protective IVTs. We also found a strong but unexpected effect for employees’ self-protective IVTs that indicated that the more self-protective the employees’ IVTs, the lower the quality of the LMX they developed with their supervisors. Our findings have implications for the nascent literature on self-protective IVTs and suggest potential benefits for employees who have fewer reservations about speaking up at work. Practitioner points: Employees’ implicit, unconscientious beliefs about the potential risks associated with speaking up are formed well in advance of their employment yet they are important drivers of whether they withhold their ideas and suggestions or speak up at work. Although strong implicit voice theories should help employees avoid negative outcomes, they can hinder the development of high-quality relationships with their managers. Managers’ implicit beliefs about speaking up can influence the outcomes their employees experience as a result of their own implicit beliefs about the risks associated with speaking up. Some of the best employee outcomes result from manager and employee pairs that share weak implicit theories about speaking up and manager and employee pairs in which employees have weak implicit theories about speaking up and managers have moderate implicit theories about speaking up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-183
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • LMX
  • congruence
  • fit
  • implicit voice theories
  • job performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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