Academic journal article Journal of Employment Counseling

The Experience of Change and Its Impact on Workers Who Self-Identify as Doing Well with Change That Affects Their Work

Academic journal article Journal of Employment Counseling

The Experience of Change and Its Impact on Workers Who Self-Identify as Doing Well with Change That Affects Their Work

Article excerpt

This study sought to understand more about the experience of workers who self-identified as doing well within the context of volatile and changing work situations. The research results indicate that even those workers who report doing well with change experience a myriad of work-related, personal life, attitude and approach, and professional life changes. The impacts of these changes can be categorized by theme: psychological, professional/work, emotional, personal/family life, physical, and cultural. Results are framed within the psychological thriving literature. Implications for organizations, counselors, and future research are discussed.

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The major purpose of this study was to explore the experience of workers who self-identified as doing well within the context of volatile and changing work situations. More specifically, we were interested in contacting individuals who had experienced changes within the previous 6 months that had affected their work and who believed that they were doing well with those changes. We wanted to understand the types of changes they had encountered that had affected their work and the impacts of those changes on them. We invited participants to discuss changes occurring in any area of their lives provided that such changes had influenced their work in some way. In conducting the study, we did not provide an a priori definition of doing well; rather, we allowed the individuals who volunteered to participate in the study to supply their own meanings.

Within a broader context, a well-developed body of literature exists documenting the impacts of change involved in transitions, such as moving from school to work (Borgen & Amundson, 2000), unemployment and downsizing (Amundson, Borgen, Jordan, & Erlebach, 2004; Butterfield & Borgen, 2005), moving from work to retirement (Harper & Shoffner, 2004), and on issues facing special populations or marginalized groups (Hill, 2003; O'Driscoll & Cooper, 1994).

The social psychology literature, which includes organizational culture and development, has indicated that the psychological impacts on individuals of large-scale corporate change are rarely, if ever, taken into account (Lansisalmi, Peiro, & Kivimaki, 2000; Tobias, 1995). The vocational psychology literature has indicated that the impacts of change may need to be addressed in the future, but it has not included this topic as a current focus of research (e.g., Hesketh, 2001). Some of the career counseling literature has recognized the impact of change on workers and has called for a more developmental, self-sustaining approach to career counseling because the existing approaches seem less effective than they once were (Gelatt, 1992; Krumbohz, 1998). The transition literature has primarily addressed people facing major crises, such as unemployment, death, serious illness, and so on (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006). Despite a wide-ranging literature search, however, we were unable to find research that addressed mainstream workers' experiences of change and the impacts of those changes.

Considering the current work context, researchers seem to be in agreement that the majority of workers are struggling in the face of ongoing and escalating change (Cropanzano, Rupp, & Byrne, 2003; Lansisalmi et al., 2000). The result of these struggles is often depression (Dorrell, 2000) or burnout, both of which are characterized by low levels of energy, involvement, and effectiveness (Leiter & Maslach, 2001).

From another perspective, human resources and other helping professionals have indicated, through anecdotal information, that a few individuals in any work setting seemed to be doing well despite the challenges and changes they faced that affected their work. These workplace observations are consistent with accounts in the psychological thriving literature of individuals who "are 'thriving' as a result of coping with stress" (Park, 1998, p. …

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