Key determinants of organisational silence for non-standard workers

William Joseph Pirie-Sture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
204 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify the key determinants of organisational silence from the perspective of non-standard workers (NSWs). The study focuses on three research themes: first, analysing the experiences motivating NSWs to remain silent; second, analysing the role of the NSW life cycle in the motivation to remain silent, the final theme is evaluation of the impact on organisational voice of an organisation employing a workforce in which NSWs and standard workers (SWs) are blended. Design/methodology/approach – The study utilises a phenomenological approach, as defined by Van Manen (2007), to collect and analyse the phenomenon of organisational silence from the perspective of NSWs. The NSWs are defined as individuals operating via Limited Liability UK registered companies created for the purpose of delivering services to organisations via a contract of services. This study employed a combination of phenomenology and hermeneutics to collect and analyse the data collected from the NSWs using semi-structured interviews (Lindseth and Norberg, 2004). Findings – The study concludes with three core findings. NSWs experience similar motivational factors to silence as experienced by standard workers (SWs). The key differential between a SW and a NSW is the role of defensive silence as a dominant motivator for a start-up NSW. The study identified that the reasons for this is that new NSWs are defensive to protect their reputation for any future contract opportunities. In addition, organisations are utilising the low confidence of new start up NSWs to suppress the ability of NSWs to voice. The research indicates how experienced NSWs use the marketing stage of their life cycle to establish voice mechanisms. The study identified that NSWs, fulfiling management and supervisory roles for organisations, are supporting/creating climates of silence through their transfer of experiences as SWs prior to becoming NSWs. Research limitations/implications – This study is a pilot study, and the findings from this study will be carried forward into a larger scale study through engagement with further participants across a diverse range of sectors. This study has identified that there is a need for further studies on organisational silence and NSWs to analyse more fully the impact of silence on the individuals and the organisation itself. A qualitative phenomenological hermeneutical study is not intended to be extrapolated to provide broad trends. The focus of the phenomenological hermeneutic research methodology is on describing and analysing the richness and depth of the NSW’s experiences of silence in organisational settings. Originality/value – This paper draws together the studies of worker classification, motivators for organisational silence, and the impact of blending SWs and NSWs in an organisational setting. The study demonstrates that academic research to date has focused predominantly on SWs to the exclusion of the 1.5 million, and growing, NSWs in the UK. This study examines these under-represented workers to analyse the participants’ experiences of organisational silence, and its consequences in organisational settings, demonstrating a need for further studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1522-1538
Number of pages7
JournalManagement Decision
Issue number6
Early online date11 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2017


  • Employee silence
  • Blending of workers
  • Non-standard workers (NSWs)
  • Organizational silence
  • Standard workers (SWs)


Dive into the research topics of 'Key determinants of organisational silence for non-standard workers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this