Evil Tidings: Are Reorganizations More Successful If Employees are Informed Early?

Rafael Wittek, Fernando Nieto Morales, Peter Mühlau

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Organizations represent deliberately designed social contexts that are characterized by multi-level hierarchies. Interests and opportunity structures at each level usually do not overlap. We suggest that one of the reasons why intentional change efforts often fail to reach their objectives is because they are likely to trigger competing social mechanisms at different levels of the hierarchy. In order to illustrate this argument, we analyze the consequences of timely communication of planned organizational changes on perceived success of reorganizations. Two competing mechanisms are derived and tested with data from a telephone survey (carried out in 2003), among a sample of n = 412 Dutch business organizations that performed a reorganization. The commitment perspective predicts that early announcement of reorganization plans to middle management increases the likelihood of reorganization success, since it increases commitment and empowers middle management. The influence mechanism predicts that early information of non-managerial employees decreases the likelihood of reorganization success, because it enables employees to use the information to their own advantage, anticipate on the strategies of management, and organize opposition against the plans. We found that timely communication with middle management indeed increases chances for success, whereas timely communication with employees correlates with reorganization failure. However, not communicating with employees has an even stronger negative effect on reorganization success. No evidence could be found for our argument that the severity of the reorganization's expected negative effects on the workforce moderates both mechanisms.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)349-367
Aantal pagina's19
TijdschriftKölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie
Volume66
Nummer van het tijdschriftSupplement 1
DOI's
StatusPublished - sep-2014

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