How does dialogic communication in the workplace facilitate employee advocacy for vaccine uptake? Such communication fosters vaccine advocacy at work.

Dialogic vaccine communication at the workplace fuels employees’ advocacy for COVID-19 vaccine uptake

How does dialogic communication in the workplace facilitate employee advocacy for vaccine uptake? Such communication fosters vaccine advocacy at work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant issue of the past decade. While the ongoing impact of COVID-19 is subsiding, challenges like vaccine hesitancy still hinder widespread vaccination against diseases like COVID-19. Moreover, this hesitancy can worsen as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes entangled in politics and anti-vaccine groups spread misinformation and conspiracy theories.

As trust in government and media declines, many consider corporate employers to be among the most reliable sources of information. Given their high trustworthiness and established communication channels, companies have the potential to effectively address misinformation and dispel doubts about COVID-19 vaccines, thereby promoting the well-being of their employees and preventing further productivity losses. To understand how companies can encourage their employees to advocate for COVID-19 vaccine uptake, we conducted a survey of 505 full-time corporate employees in the United States.   

Dialogic communication – Companies’ essential communication efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccination

Dialogic communication, in this context, means fostering open, responsive, and mutually understanding interactions between companies and their employees regarding vaccination. It is crucial for a company’s vaccination efforts. When companies prioritise mutual understanding and respect for their employees and create an open atmosphere for vaccine-related discussions, their vaccination promotion initiatives are more likely to succeed. In simple terms, companies should encourage employees to freely ask questions and express their diverse opinions about COVID-19 vaccination instead of ignoring or downplaying their voices during decision-making.    

To establish effective dialogic vaccine communication, companies should engage their managers and internal public relations professionals in actively listening to individual employees. They should invite employees to voice their views and concerns about COVID-19 vaccination freely. By actively listening and responding with respect and empathy, companies can help employees address their doubts and frustrations and find common ground to promote workplace vaccination efforts.  

Furthermore, companies should provide employees with access to various communication channels through which they can receive timely information and share their feelings about COVID-19 vaccines. To enhance information accessibility and facilitate dialogue with employees, companies can use internal communication platforms such as internal social media, intranets, town hall meetings, Q&A sessions, and anonymous employee surveys. 

Lastly, transparency is crucial in dialogic communication. Companies should offer truthful, substantial, and useful vaccine-related information. They should base their communication on scientific evidence regarding vaccine safety, effectiveness, and potential side effects. They should also provide clear information about vaccine distribution, locations, and workplace safety protocols after vaccination.

How does dialogic communication in the workplace facilitate employee advocacy for vaccine uptake? Such communication fosters vaccine advocacy at work.
Credit. Midjourney

Perceived organizational support – A cognitive outcome of dialogic communication

Perceived organizational support refers to employees’ beliefs concerning the extent to which they are valued and cared for by their organizations when it comes to the issue of vaccination. It is closely linked to dialogic vaccine communication. When companies engage in dialogue with employees, actively listen to their perspectives, respect their views, and share vaccination information openly. Employees understand that their thoughts matter and that their emotional and informational needs are met. This leads to a sense of support from their companies.  

To foster positive perceived organizational support, organizations should offer employees informational, financial, policy, and logistical support whenever possible. For instance, companies can implement flexible work scheduling policies and provide paid leave for vaccination. They can also offer COVID-19 vaccines at the workplace. Such measures help employees perceive that their companies are supportive when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination and that their well-being and needs are cared for by the organization. When employees feel assured that the organization prioritizes their health and safety and is committed to addressing their socioemotional needs and providing assistance for vaccination, their confidence in getting vaccinated and advocating for vaccination is likely to increase.

Dialogic communication will enhance perceived organizational support for vaccine uptake, which will further increase employees’ positive emotions and decrease their negative emotions toward the vaccine. Such emotional states will ultimately give rise to employees’ behaviors of advocating for vaccine uptake not only in the workplace but also within their personal networks.

Mu He

Vaccine-related emotions – Powerful predictors of employees’ vaccination behaviors

COVID-19 vaccination is a topic that can stir emotions among employees. So, when organizations assess how they communicate about it and the support they provide, emotions come into play. Understanding how people emotionally react to vaccines and vaccine-related information can help organizations and officials plan vaccine rollouts, address vaccine hesitancy, and build trust in vaccines. When organizations talk to their employees about vaccines, they should consider the mixed emotions that may arise. Some may feel negative emotions like anxiety, fear, or anger, while others may experience positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude, or reassurance.

Our study takes a comprehensive look at how employees’ positive and negative emotional responses influence their attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination. The results show that when organizations engage in open and responsive vaccine communication, it fosters positive emotions and reduces negative ones about vaccines. This, in turn, encourages employees to support vaccination efforts. Since these emotions are strong indicators, workplaces should acknowledge, monitor, and manage negative emotions while also nurturing positive ones about vaccination. When employees feel positive about vaccination, they are more likely to become advocates for workplace vaccination programs.   


Journal reference

Tao, W., Lee, Y., Li, J. Y., & He, M. (2023). How dialogic vaccine communication in the workplace facilitates employee advocacy for COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Journal of public relations research35(1), 17-36.

Dr. Weiting Tao is an associate professor in strategic communication. Her primary research area is corporate public relations, encompassing corporate social responsibility, corporate ability, crisis communication and management, cross-cultural strategic communication, corporate reputation and relationship management, and social media strategies. Dr. Tao has published in scholarly journals such as Communication Research, Public Relations Review, Journal of Communication Management, and European Sport Management Quarterly. She has also won numerous top paper and research awards at international and national communication conferences, including the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the International Public Relations Research Conference.

Dr. Yeunjae Lee is an assistant professor in public relations and strategic communication at Colorado State University. She specializes in employee communication, internal issue/crisis management, and organizational diversity and justice. Using public relations theories, Dr. Lee has conducted extensive research on employee behaviors within and outside of work in response to organizational crises and diversity-related issues, as well as the impacts of organizations’ strategic internal communication. Dr. Lee’s work has been published in more than 60 articles in leading refereed journals such as Communication Monographs, Communication Research, Journal of Public Relations Research, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business Ethics, and Public Relations Review, among others. Dr. Lee has also received more than ten top paper and research awards and recognitions from national and international communication associations and conferences and has been an Arthur W. Page Legacy Scholar in 2020-2023.

Jo-Yun (Queenie) Li is an assistant professor in the Department of Strategic Communication at the University of Miami. As an interdisciplinary researcher, her work blends public relations and health communication research with a focus on the strategic planning, application, and evaluation of communication campaigns that mobilise publics and facilitate health education, promotion, and social equality. She has published more than 50 articles in leading scholarly journals such as Communication Research, Public Relations Review, Journal of Health Communication, International Journal of Advertising, and Journal of Public Relations Research. She has also earned multiple top papers and research awards at communication conferences on both national and international levels.

Mu He is an Assistant Professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Drake University, specialising in public relations and sports communication. His research interests include sports media representations of minority athletes, sports fans’ perceptions and reactions to significant sports issues, international controversies in sports, and situational problem-solving of social problems. Mu He has published several peer-reviewed articles on topics related to minority athletes, social media analysis of international controversies in sports, and racial discrimination coping. He has presented his work at numerous conferences around the world, such as the International Association for Communication and Sport (IACS), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC), and the International Communication Association (ICA).