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Employee perceptions of organizational change: impact of hierarchical level

Liz Jones (School of Psychology, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Bernadette Watson (School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Elizabeth Hobman (School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Prashant Bordia (School of Management, The University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Cindy Gallois (School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Victor J. Callan (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 13 June 2008




The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of organizational level on employees' perceptions and reactions to a complex organizational change involving proposed work force redesign, downsizing and a physical move to a new hospital.


Participants included executives, supervisory and non‐supervisory staff in a major tertiary hospital. Recorded in‐depth interviews were conducted with 61 employees about the positive and negative aspects of the change.


A total of 12 themes were identified from content coding, including emotional responses and attitudes toward the change, issues about the management of the change process and about change outcomes. Supervisory and non‐supervisory staff referred more to conflict and divisions, and expressed more negative attitudes toward the change, than did executives. Executives and supervisory staff focused more on planning challenges and potential outcomes of the change than did non‐supervisory staff. Finally, compared to other staff, executives focused more on participation in the change process and communication about the change process.

Research limitations/implications

This study examines the organizational change at only one time point in one organization. Perceptions of the change may change over time, and other identities like professional identity may influence perceptions.

Practical implications

These findings suggest that change agents should consider the needs of different organizational groups in order to achieve effective and successful organizational change.


This study clearly shows the impact of organizational level, identifying similarities and differences in perceptions of change across level.



Jones, L., Watson, B., Hobman, E., Bordia, P., Gallois, C. and Callan, V.J. (2008), "Employee perceptions of organizational change: impact of hierarchical level", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 294-316.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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