Exploring Healthy Organizational Change Processes:: Criteria, Consequences, Limitations, and Causality
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- Institutt for psykologi 
Although organizational change is an integral part of today’s globalized work life, managing organizational change is notoriously difficult, and organizational change has become a risk factor for the psychosocial work environment and occupational health. Furthermore, there is an ever growing interest in the field for the quality of the process involved in organizational change. This is reflected in the 2006 Working Environment Act, which requests employers to provide participation, information, and competence development for employees exposed to change processes. Taking as its point of departure that the abstraction level of these legislative concepts is too high, the present thesis starts out in an exploratory fashion. The first paper presents a qualitative interview study based on 180 interviews according to principles of maximum variation sampling, hence, the enterprises were spread geographically, and in relation to public and private sector, line of business, work-force, and aspects of the organizational change in question. Through a grounded theory analysis, five action-oriented criteria for healthy organizational change processes emerged: awareness of norms, awareness of diversity, manager availability, role clarification, and constructive conflicts. The second paper of the thesis set out to test whether the theoretical criteria that emerged in the first paper could be operationalized into measures capable of showing the effects of a healthy change process on the psychosocial work environment and stress. In other words, from the theoretical understanding that emerged inductively in the first paper, quantitatively testable hypotheses were deduced regarding the effects of a healthy organizational change on the psychosocial work environment and stress. This was done by creating a measurement of process—the healthy change process index (HCPI)—and comparing the effect of this to the general effect of being exposed to organizational change, using structural equation modeling (SEM). A national randomized sample (N = 2530) was used to model the general effects of being exposed to change, whereas a strategic cluster sample (N = 603) was used to model the effects of the HCPI. The results indicated that organizational change creates overall increased demands that a healthy change process seemingly cannot reduce. However, a healthy change process can still reduce the experience of stress and facilitate the coping with stress resulting from increased demands through enhancing control and support dimensions of the psychosocial work environment. The third paper in the thesis remained within the quantitative survey approach, testing more hypotheses deducted from the current theory in the field. Taking into account the increasing interest in the field of the significance of personal resources and notions of the cascading of change down through organizations, it broadens the project to establish the contextual limits for the significance of a healthy process in terms of personal resources and the individualized impact of organizational change. The third paper employed an extended version of the HCPI as well as a measure recently developed for the impact of change on individuals—the change impact factor (CIF)—and another recently developed measure of personal resources—the change resilience (CR). Following the notion from Paper 1 that abstract concepts of participation, information, and competence are tantamount to satisfaction, the CIF and the CR were chosen in Paper 3 for their minimal satisfaction content. SEM analyses were conducted on two samples (n = 529; n = 426) representing two alternative sets of measurements for stress and subjective health complaints (SHC) as dependent variables. The SEM models show that the HCPI partially mediates the effects of the CIF and the CR on levels of stress and SHC. Hence, there are limitations to how much that can be achieved by healthy change processes. However, because the mediations are substantial, these limitations may also represent contexts in which the conscious management of a healthy change process is especially important. The fourth and last paper of the present thesis addresses the underlying assumptions of causality in the models of Papers 2 and 3, by triangulating their correlational findings under experimental control. In a laboratory setting where organizational change is simulated in student groups, the manager behaviors responsible for the change process experiences studied in Paper 1, and which were operationalized as questionnaire items of the HCPI in Papers 2 and 3, are recreated as experiment manipulation. Thus, Paper 4 tries to reproduce synthetically the employee experience of change process healthiness, reporting results from two experimental studies. Study I used a between group design with students as participants (N = 180), receiving either a healthy or an unhealthy process during a simulated change by manipulating all the HCPI dimensions together. In all, seven out of eight predicted outcome variables fulfilled all three criteria set to indicate that outcomes are in fact the indirect results of an experimentally manipulated process as expected. In Study II each of the four HCPI dimensions were manipulated independently in four different groups of students in a repeated measures design with two simulated changes (N = 103). All in all Study II yielded strong triangulational evidence for previous correlational studies both for the dimensionality of the HCPI dimensions and for the strong correlations between these dimensions. The results also increase the evidence from Study I of the effect of the manipulation of the HCPI on secondary outcome measures, both in that a larger number of variables were tested and in that manipulative specificity was increased by the single dimension manipulation. In conclusion, the present thesis establishes evidence of underlying behavioral criteria for a healthy change process through a qualitative exploration. Furthermore, quantitative evidence indicates that organizational change creates overall increased demands that a healthy change process seemingly cannot reduce. However, a healthy change process—as operationalized through the behavioral criteria of the HCPI—can still reduce the experience of stress and facilitate the coping with stress through enhancing the psychosocial work environment. The thesis also presents evidence that although high individual change impact and low change resilience will limit the effects of a health process, these contexts are simultaneously the most fruitful grounds for process work. Finally, by experimentally reproducing the experiences of change processes from which the criteria for healthy change process originally emerged, the present thesis presents strong triangulational evidence for the significance of these behavioral criteria as well as underlying assumptions of causality.