Change Management

Haunted by the Past: Effects of Poor Change Management History on Employee Attitudes and Turnovers“, by Prashant Bordia, Simon Lloyd D. Restubog, both of the Australian National University, Canberra, Nerina L. Jimmieson of the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia, and Bernd E. Irmer of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, was recently published in Group and Organizational Management OnlineFirst. Professor Bordia has provided additional information on the article:

Who is the target audience for this article?

This article will appeal to researchers as well as practitioners interested in organizational change and its consequences for employee attitudes and retention.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

I have often heard people complain about how bad their organization is at managing change. My co-authors and I wanted to understand the effects of these negative experiences of change on how employees feel about the organization in general, about change in particular and whether these negative experiences result in exit from the organization.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

I was really surprised by the strong effects of poor change management history (PCMH). PCHM beliefs predicted employee turnover up to two years later and this effect was even stronger than the effect of turnover intentions!

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or
practice?

Research: My co-authors and I really enjoyed incorporating the context of change history into the theoretical model, collecting data on it and relating it with employee attitudes and behavior. I hope future research on change management links employee attitudes with actual events in the organization.

Practice: Change agents and leaders are often encouraged to have a vision for the future, but we hope they are also mindful of the past. If there is a history of poor change management, they cannot just assume that employees will forget about the past. The leaders will have to work at changing employee beliefs about change management in their organization, before they can expect the employees to accept future change.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

This study fits into my long-term interest in how employees cope with changing work environments (for example, I have previously looked at the management of uncertainty and rumors during organizational change).

How did your paper change during the review process?

The paper got considerably sharpened by the reviewers’ and the editor’s comments. They also made us think more about and clarify the papers contributions to theory and practice.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

In hindsight, we have a rather blunt measure of whether an employee was exposed to poor change management history (either the employee did, coded as 1 or did not, coded as 0). If we could do this study again, I would like to obtain a more fine-grained measure, perhaps on a 7-point scale.

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