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Purpose – Research has shown accountability can produce both positive and negative outcomes. Further, because of inherent environmental uncertainty, perceptions of organizational politics often interact with accountability to produce negative effects. However, using uncertainty management theory, the purpose of this paper is to argue that employees can use proactive voice to exercise control in the ambiguity of highly accountable and political environments. Design/methodology/approach – This two sample study of graduate school alumni (n=211) and insurance employees (n=186) explored the three-way interaction of felt accountability×politics perceptions×proactive voice on work performance, job satisfaction, and job tension. Findings – As hypothesized, high levels of felt accountability and politics were most strongly associated with favorable outcomes when coupled with increased voice behavior. Conversely, felt accountability and politics were related to negative outcomes in settings associated with low proactive voice. Results supported in Sample 1 were then constructively replicated in Sample 2. Practical implications – All employees are held accountable to some degree, and all work in potentially political settings. Often, these environmental features are dictated to employees, leaving only employee reactions in direct control. One possible response is voice. As demonstrated in the present research, employees who engage in proactive voice appear to exercise some degree of control over their environment, resulting in more positive outcomes than their less active counterparts. Originality/value – The present research extends understanding regarding the effects of accountability in organizations by demonstrating that contextual factors (e.g. politics) and individual difference variables (e.g. in levels of proactive voice) differentiate favorable vs unfavorable outcomes of accountability.


Centre for Sustainable HRM and Wellbeing

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Journal Article

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