Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 251–266 | Cite as

Echoes of Silence: Employee Silence as a Mediator Between Overall Justice and Employee Outcomes

  • David B. WhitesideEmail author
  • Laurie J. Barclay


Despite burgeoning interest in employee silence, there are still significant gaps in our understanding of (a) the antecedents of employee silence in organizations and (b) the implications of engaging in silence for employees. Using two experimental studies (Study 1a, N = 91; Study 1b, N = 152) and a field survey of full-time working adults (Study 2, N = 308), we examined overall justice as an antecedent of acquiescent (i.e., silence motivated by futility) and quiescent silence (i.e., silence motivated by fear of sanctions). Across the studies, results indicated that overall justice is a significant predictor of both types of silence in organizations. Furthermore, Study 2 indicated that the implications of silence extend beyond the restriction of information flow in organizations to include employee outcomes. Specifically, acquiescent silence partially or fully mediated the relationship between overall justice perceptions and emotional exhaustion, psychological withdrawal, physical withdrawal, and performance. Quiescent silence partially mediated these relationships, with the exception of performance. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings for both the justice and silence literatures are discussed.


Employee silence Acquiescent silence Quiescent silence Fairness Overall justice Performance 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business and EconomicsWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

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