Exit, Voice, Patience, and Neglect: Young Worker Responses to Occupational Safety Concerns
young workers , occupational safety , employee voice , proactive behaviour , Hirschman , turnover intentions , responses to hazardous work , commitment , safety management
I conducted four studies that develop and test a safety-specific model of exit, voice, patience, and neglect (EVPN) in the context of young workers’ reactions to declining safety conditions (Hirschman, 1970). In the face of hazardous working conditions, contemplating exiting (i.e., quitting the job) or voicing concerns about the risks (e.g., reporting a safety issue to a supervisor) are proactive responses. Conversely, neglecting safety concerns (i.e., ignoring personal safety in the face of danger) is a passive response. Workers may also choose patience (i.e., taking a wait-and-see approach) about concerns. In total, 833 young people participated in four studies. Manuscript 1 (Chapter 5) is a focus group study that explores the types, frequency, temporal patterns, and consequences of the safety-related EVPN behaviours. The results showed (1) most participants favoured patience if and when they have concerns about workplace safety; (2) voice is reserved for serious safety concerns; and (3) exit is very uncommon and only used as a last resort. Manuscript 2 (Chapter 6) describes the development of age-appropriate measures for general turnover intentions (i.e., exit), and safety-specific voice, patience, and neglect. The reliability, dimensionality, and validity of these scales are demonstrated over three studies. Manuscript 3 (Chapter 7) used an experimental scenario approach in which safety conditions (high vs. low), financial reasons for working (high vs. low), and being injured (injured vs. not injured) are manipulated. The role of participant gender (male vs. female) was also examined. Participants assigned to the injury condition were more likely to exercise patience than those assigned to the non-injury condition. Low quality safety conditions were associated with higher turnover intentions. Finally, females reported higher voice than males. Finally, Manuscript 4 (Chapter 8) reports on findings from a short-term longitudinal design meant to replicate and extend the results from the previous studies. Support for Hirschman’s loyalty proposition was also found. Specifically, felt responsibility for improving safety was found to moderate the relationship between organizational loyalty and both exit and voice. The final chapter integrates these findings and discusses future research directions as well as implications for public policy, management practice, and theory.