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Organizational change and psychological reactance

Dmitriy A. Nesterkin (Department of Management and Decision Sciences, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina, USA)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 17 May 2013

6888

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to focus on the resistance to change in the organizational contexts where a soon‐to‐be‐implemented change initiative infringes upon freedoms of the employees. Specifically, the role of affect was explored within the framework of psychological reactance theory, delineating salience of affect as a driver of the intention to restore one's threatened freedoms. Additionally, the roles that emotional intelligence and interpersonal justice play in lowering the activation of reactance were examined.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper that connects self‐determination, reactance, organizational change, emotional intelligence and justice literatures to explain how psychological reactance may be energized and de‐energized in the context of on‐going organizational change.

Findings

The study suggests that organizational change is likely to undermine employees' freedoms, which will arouse negative affective states. The latter are likely to energize reactance – a motivational state directed to restore the threatened freedoms. Negative affect and reactance may be mitigated by implementing and sustaining socially supportive and interpersonally just organizational environment, led by an emotionally intelligent management staff.

Originality/value

This work is the first that investigates how and under what circumstances organizational change is likely to activate employees' psychological reactance. Furthermore, the study presents two new methods that may be used by managers to mitigate change‐driven reactance and the negative affect that energizes it.

Keywords

Citation

Nesterkin, D.A. (2013), "Organizational change and psychological reactance", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 573-594. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534811311328588

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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