Employees' Perception of Organizational Change: The Mediating Effects of Stress Management Strategies

Article excerpt

Organizational change is the process whereby an organization converts from an existing state to a hoped-for future state in order to increase its effectiveness. For employees, organizational change may produce negative effects, such as ambiguous role responsibilities, unemployment, a lowering of social status, and family and job conflicts.

Schweiger and DeNsi (1) and Hellriegel, Slocum, and Woodman (2) have pointed out that organizational changes can be viewed as the greatest source of stress on the job and, perhaps, in an employee's life. Kotter (3) has pointed out that, while each is important, the core problems of organizational changes are never strategy, structure, culture, or system. Rather, the real problems arise when deciding how to help employees adapt to the change. Schabracq and Cooper (4) believe that employees' stress rises because positions and technical skills may be changed or altered. When employees cannot make necessary technical adjustments, a sense of uncertainty arises about the future, which, in turn, creates stress. This uncertainty can affect employees' job commitment and job satisfaction.

Furthermore, trust is an important foundation of cooperative relationships between people. Once an organization begins changing, its employees may face threats to their jobs, roles, positions, and resources, and these threats can lower employees' trust in their organization as a whole. This reaction can negatively manifest in employees' attitudes toward their work. (5) When individuals contemplate the stress of organizational change, their perceptions, choice of reaction strategies, and working attitudes all strongly influence whether the change will be successful and whether the newly reconstituted organization will function efficiently.

To address changes in the world economy and national political realities during the 1990s, the Executive Yuan of Taiwan presented a plan to merge some central government organizations and eliminate-hundreds of federal jobs. These changes were intended to increase operating efficiencies and lower expenditures from the treasury. Police and military organizations, including the Ministry of National Defense, the Coast Guard Administration, the National Police Agency, and the National Fire Agency, all faced large staff reductions. According to Hui and Lee, (6) the government's announcement of the mergers and staff reductions produced strong shocks in the affected organizations.

This study uses the uncertainty of expected organizational change to explore employees' perceptions of external changes, as well as the relationships among employee trust, stress management, organizational identification, and job involvement. It is hoped that the conclusions can serve as a reference point for governmental departments initiating changes.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

To survive and expand, organizations must quickly adapt to changes in their environment. If organizations do not change, they lose their ability to compete. When the environment changes and the niche originally filled by the organization either becomes unimportant or is superseded, the organization must change or die. Hodge and Johnson (7) believe that when change has the potential to lower a person's position or change the person's job description or freedom, the person is likely to resist the change. The studies of Storseth showed that job insecurity is related to individuals' perceptions of changes: The greater the threat is perceived to be, the greater the perception of job insecurity. (8) Role stress is the uncertainty of change. Role stress includes role ambiguity, role conflict, and role pressure. (9)

Change in an organization will produce some uncertainty, frustration, and anxiety among employees that will have long-term effects on employees' attitude and psychology. (10) Hui and Lee found that the expectation of changes led employees to experience psychological uncertainty about the potential loss of current position, unemployment, role pressure, and reduction of available resources. …