The Exit-Voice-Loyalty-Neglect ("EVLN") analyses the consequences of job dissatisfaction, and postulates that employees will respond to job dissatisfaction in one of four ways: by exiting, by speaking out about it, through loyalty, or through job neglect (Withey & Cooper 1989, 521). The model is premised upon the principle that job dissatisfaction affects individual behaviour, and has effects on the employee both intrinsically and extrinsically (Leck & Saunders 2005, 219). It suggests that the consequences of job dissatisfaction can be predicted, and can be harmful to both the individual and the organisation (Naus 2007, 684). This essay will analyse the EVLN model and will reflect on its application in light of a personal work experience. It will then provide practical recommendations as to how managers can avoid the negative consequences of job dissatisfaction and in particular, the negative behaviours contemplated by the EVLN model.
The EVLN model, first devised by Hirschman in 1970 and expanded upon by Rusbult, Zembrodt and Gunn in 1982 and Farrell in 1983, suggests that depending on the person and the situation, employees will respond to job dissatisfaction in any one (or a combination) of four ways, which as the name suggests, includes exit, voice, loyalty or neglect (Withey & Gellarly 1998, 111). In this model, exit refers to resigning from the organisation, transferring to another work unit or office, or at the very least, attempting to make the exit (McShane 2006, 117). Voice refers to an attempt to change, rather than escape from, the situation. Voice may be constructive, particularly where employees voice their dissatisfaction and recommend ways their satisfaction levels can be improved (Luchak 2003, 116). Conversely, it can be destructive where employees begin 'venting' to fellow employees, thereby spreading negative energy within the workplace (Turnley & Feldman 1999, 897). Loyalty refers to employees who respond to job dissatisfaction by complacency, most typically by patiently waiting for the problem to resolve itself. These types of employees tend to suffer silently in anticipation of their work situation improving (McShane 2006, 118). Neglect, which broadly refers to neglecting one's work responsibilities, is perhaps the most destructive of responses to job dissatisfaction, as it involves decreasing productivity, decreased attention to quality, and increasing absenteeism and lateness (Hagedoorn 1999, 310).
The responses can be independent or sequential, meaning that an employee may transition through a series of responses (Farrell & Rusbult 1992, 203). For example, a dissatisfied employee may go through a period of neglect, before deciding to quit their job (Humphrey 2000, 714). Once they announce their resignation, they may speak out to their fellow employees and leave with a 'noisy' exit (Withey & Cooper 1989, 522). Loyalty and voice can be constructive where they are used to try to maintain satisfactory relationships, though they can be destructive in certain circumstances (Si, Wei & Li 2008, 935). Neglect and exit are generally destructive as they occur once employees have decided that the relationship with the organisation is not worth maintaining (Si, Wei & Li 2008, 936).
Which response a given employee will take will generally depend upon the individual and their circumstances (McShane 2006, 117). A generally determinative factor is the availability of alternative employment. For example, where an employee has a great deal of financial freedom, they may choose to leave an aversive situation (Lee & Mitchell 1994, 62). This is far less likely when they are facing financial pressures and have low employment prospects (Hagedoorn 1999, 312). Instead, they may temporarily use the neglect option until a job opportunity comes by (McShane 2006, 119). Employees who have worked at an organisation for a lengthy period of time, and who can identify with that organisation, will generally use the voice option and speak out about their dissatisfaction (McShane 2006, 118; Withey & Coopers 1989, 522). This is also the case where employees cannot easily resign or transfer, or decrease their productivity without the fear of retribution (Rusbult et al. 1988, 619). Finally, where an employee feels as though they have overinvested in an organisation, they may engage in lazy or neglectful behaviours and decrease their 'organisational citizenship' behaviour (Farrell 1983, 601).
In a previous workplace, I experienced serious job dissatisfaction which was followed by a series of behavioural changes. The organisation I was working for had lost a number of major clients, and had faced serious staff turnover issues, and as a result was experiencing significant financial distress. My manager had become extremely stressed and was struggling to remain calm. He would take his stress out on me on a constant basis, and his behaviour became increasingly destructive. He had a very short temper and would often shout and yell abusive words. His performance expectations of me increased unrealistically, and he began to criticise the smallest of deviations from the norm. He would confront me (and others) publically, in a way that was both demeaning and humiliating. This was followed by a pay cut of over twenty-five percent, which I felt was inequitable and unjustified. I became extremely dissatisfied and de-motivated, and whilst I would usually opt to speak out about my concerns, I had no option to do so as my manager was self-righteous and was not interested in receiving constructive criticism or complaints. Somewhat subconsciously, I became extremely unmotivated and the energy that I put into performing my work had significantly decreased. I expressed 'neglectful' behaviour, as my output levels had decreased, as had the general quality of my work (Farrell & Rusbult 1992, 207). Furthermore, I began to speak about my problems to fellow employees, but would not confront my manager about the issues. Consistent with studies on counterproductive 'voice' behaviour, this was a form of me using my voice in a highly destructive way (Withey & Coopers 1989, 530). In line with studies on negative loyalty behaviours and the exiting response, I did not leave my job immediately as I could not find another job immediately (and I wanted have a given number of months' experience on my resume), however I resigned as soon as another job became available (Rusbult et al 1998, 600). In hindsight, my dissatisfied work experience had a negative effect on me individually, my co-workers and on the organisation as a whole.
It is clear that employee responses to job dissatisfaction have direct implications on organisational productivity and effectiveness (Leck & Saunders 2005, 219). Constructive responses such as trying to improve working conditions, improving job satisfaction and improving management approaches value-add to an organisation as they aid in decreasing job dissatisfaction on the organisational level (McShane 2006, 120; Naus 2007, 689). In contrast, destructive approaches such as resigning, absenteeism, decreased productivity, decreased quality control or psychological withdrawal can adversely affect the individual, their fellow workers, the quality of output material, and the organisation as a whole (Naus 2007, 690; Farrell & Rusbult 1992, 215). Understanding employee behaviour is an all-important task for managers as it can allow them to curb those behaviours that are disruptive to the individual and the organisation, and promote constructive behaviours (Leck & Saunders 2005, 221).
To decrease the negative effects of job dissatisfaction, managers should be mindful of behaviours contemplated by the EVLN model and should identify them as indicators of job dissatisfaction (Humphrey 2000, 720). As the EVLN model is a typology of consequential behaviour, managers should remedy the behaviour by looking to the actual cause (McShane 2006, 121). Thus, managers should use the behaviour as an indicator of job dissatisfaction, and should immediately act upon it once identified (Si, Wei & Li 2008, 940). There are a number of ways in which managers can attempt to re-instil job satisfaction in a dissatisfied employee. Research suggests that employees will be less likely to engage in destructive behaviours such as neglect, exit or negative voice when there is a possibility of improvement, a feeling of autonomy or control over the situation, foreseeable happiness, and a sense of belonging to the workplace (Withey & Cooper 1989, 523; Rusbult et al. 1988, 625). Managers should focus on these characteristics so that they promote constructive behaviour and decrease the stressors causing employees to engage in destructive behaviours.
Secondly, and vitally importantly, managers should ensure that there is open communication between employees and management, so that more constructive behaviours such as using one's voice are actually an option (Naus 2007, 700). Had my former manager been more approachable and open to my feedback, I could have resolved my problems by expressing my concerns and having them dealt with. Instead, I was afraid to confront my manager, and resorted to being underproductive and speaking out to my fellow employees, therefore spreading negative energy in the workplace. This may have led to job dissatisfaction and similar consequences for other employees (McShane 2006, 123). Based on my own research and experience, I would recommend that managers be more approachable so that dissatisfied employees can opt for constructive behaviours before resorting to destructive behaviours.
The EVLN model is an important framework used to describe employee responses to job dissatisfaction. It contemplates that employees will respond to job dissatisfaction in varying ways according to their personality and their situations, and in general will respond through fight, flight, complacency or de-motivation. The framework is useful as it allows managers to identify behaviours that indicate employee job dissatisfaction, which in turn allows them address underlying stressors and concerns. In light of research and personal work experiences, it is recommended that managers be mindful of these behaviours so that they are markers of job dissatisfaction, and keep lines of communication open so that job dissatisfaction issues can be addressed constructively.
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