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Relational perspectives on the construction of meaning: A network model of change interpretation

Olivia Kyriakidou (Athens University of Economics and Business, Athens, Greece)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 30 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to defend a social constructionist approach to conceptualizing and managing organizational change. This approach requires that one pays more attention to the relational qualities of ongoing interaction processes among the parties involved, and that the individual and the organization are conceptualized as inextricably linked rather than separate entities to be related. Specifically, the authors take the relationship as constructed by employees as the focus of analysis, illustrating that by focusing on the relational quality of the interface between individuals and organizations, new possibilities for dialogue among parties can be created and new ways of intervening can be contemplated.

Design/methodology/approach

To illustrate this argument, a detailed case study of a planned change scenario is described, looking in particular at the way employees construct the change as a basis for identifying the core elements of meaning construction in this instance.

Findings

The findings reveal that contrary to management assumptions, employees interpret change as either attractive or non‐engaging rather than as either a threat or an opportunity. The findings highlight the importance of actively managing the attractiveness of the new organization (its corporate identity and image) as an integral part of the change effort rather than focusing solely on strategic issues.

Originality/value

This paper tries to develop a better understanding of “relational perspectives on the construction of meaning” as they relate to organizational change, especially the kind of broad‐ranging, transformational change. Understanding change events of this type from the perspective of those involved is an important task for organizational scholars. Moreover, it tries to integrate a number of distinct but potential complementary theoretical perspectives, including the social construction of reality, negotiation and argumentation, the negotiated order perspective, sensemaking, personal construct psychology, thematic networks, and identity. Finally, it attempts to ground its inquiry in the words and constructs of those involved in the change process, rather than trying to impose pre‐existing organizational theories on the observed events.

Keywords

Citation

Kyriakidou, O. (2011), "Relational perspectives on the construction of meaning: A network model of change interpretation", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 572-592. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534811111158868

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited