Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Business (Thesis)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Professor Helene de Burgh-Woodman


This conceptual thesis seeks to re-visit the relevance of Albert Hirschman’s (1970) highly enduring Exit, Voice and Loyalty (EVL) model for understanding contemporary workplace dynamics and organisational member responses to instances of organisational decline or slack. In particular, the thesis focuses on the inclusion of organisational silence and its connection to voice and loyalty. Organisational theorists have begun to enquire into the nature of organizational silence, why it forms and what its consequences may be. What the current literature suggests is that although management desires an engaged, productive and loyal workforce, it does not want members to raise their voice when it is inconvenient or undesirable for management. At the same time, management seeks to foster “loyal employees” because the cost of exit is so high to the organisation. In the process, it is not uncommon for management to confuse the presence of silence and loyalty. Instead of cultivating a loyal workforce, by enforcing silence management creates simply “present” members. These subsequent theoretical developments are yet to be integrated into the conceptualisation of Hirschman’s original model.

The essential question that frames this research is can Hirschman’s original model be re-conceptualised for contemporary organisations via a consideration of silence? In order to guide the research towards an extension of the literature, the present thesis poses a further sub question of how do we incorporate silence into the EVL model in order to distinguish loyalty from disengaged, present members?

The purpose of asking these questions is to enable a re-visitation of Hirschman’s model, to trace the subsequent major iterations of the model in scholarly work (Gehlbach, 2006; Kassing, 2002) and to suggest ways in which the concept of silence can be leveraged to better explain how voice and loyalty might work within the organisational setting. This research shows that an organisation that fosters voice instead of silence can achieve a more productive, innovative and resilient workforce. It suggests that to build organisational loyalty, management needs to foster a constructive, open communication both vertically and horizontally. Therefore, this thesis builds on existing scholarly conversations regarding the ongoing relevance of the EVL model, makes an important theoretical adjustment to the model through the mobilisation of silence and then demonstrates how the inclusion of silence articulates into concepts of voice and loyalty.

Included in

Business Commons