Had a difficult or painful change programme? The next one may be worse.

Had a Difficult or Painful Change Programme? The Next One May be Worse

Change Programme

Organisations that attempt a change programme after a previous difficult and painful change programme face an increased and significant risk of failure during the next programme. This, a new study shows, is down to employees of the organisation effectively being mentally scarred by the last attempt at organisational change. Difficult and painful change programmes significantly increase the risk of internal organisational change cynicism and fatigue.


Change Programmes and Psychological Contracts


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Every member of an organisation will have expectations from their association with it. Even those who are largely only doing their job just for the money will have expectations of the organisation beyond just their pay. For example, they may expect to be treated fairly, to work, be managed and communicated with in certain ways. As people gain experience with an organisation these expectations form a ‘psychological contract’ – an unwritten set of rules or expectations that build up over time, that the people in the organisation anticipate will continue.


change fatigue

Change fatigue


This study and others are showing that organisational change can often tear up the psychological contract creating a significant negative emotional response to the change in question. This can lead to increased turnover intentions (intentions to leave) and resistance to the change process. The researchers add “Findings also provided support for our arguments that psychological contract violation would predict turnover intentions and, ultimately, employee turnover.”

What this can mean, if not handled sympathetically, is that the organisation either loses the good staff just at a time when it needs to retain them, or turns supportive pro-active staff into resistors of change.


Basins of Poor Morale


To avoid basins of low morale and resistance the authors recommend: “HR managers may explicitly and openly discuss the possible positive outcomes from change efforts or work with work groups to identify potential benefits that may emerge from proposed changes. Managers and change agents may work collaboratively with employees to identify ways in which any potential losses resulting from change can be avoided or mitigated.”


The paper also recommends that acts of contrition by the senior management to affected groups could well be a surprising and effective answer – to meet with them, admit past mistakes, apologise and then move on has been shown to be effective.

Reference – available to members


The difference between organisational culture and climate and why it matters

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page