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Nose to Tail: Using the Whole Employment Relationship to Link Worker Participation to Operational Performance

Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations

ISBN: 978-1-78441-380-4, eISBN: 978-1-78441-379-8

Publication date: 2 February 2015


Although many employers continue to adopt various forms of worker participation or employee involvement, expected positive gains often fail to materialize. One explanation for the weak or altogether missing performance effects is that researchers rely on frameworks that focus almost exclusively on contingencies related to the workers themselves or to the set of tasks subject to participatory processes. This study is premised on the notion that a broader examination of the employment relationship within which a worker participation program is embedded reveals a wider array of factors impinging upon its success. I integrate labor relations theory into existing insights from the strategic human resource management literature to advance an alternative framework that additionally accounts for structures and processes above the workplace level – namely, the (potentially implicit) contract linking employees to the organization and the business strategies enacted by the latter. The resulting propositions suggest that the performance-enhancing impact of worker participation hinges on the presence of participatory or participation-supporting structures at all three levels of the employment relationship. I conclude with implications for participation research.




The author is grateful to Ingrid Fulmer, Barry Gerhart, Jody Hoffer Gittell, Ellen Ernst Kossek, and Frits Pil for their comments and suggestions.


Litwin, A.S. (2015), "Nose to Tail: Using the Whole Employment Relationship to Link Worker Participation to Operational Performance", Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations (Advances in Industrial & Labor Relations, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 143-176.



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