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Control and the emotional rollercoaster of organizational change

Roy Kark Smollan (Management, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 8 July 2014




The aim of the study is to identify the emotions that arise over issues of control over organizational change, to explore why they occur and what their consequences are for the organizational member.


A total of 24 people from different industries, organizations, hierarchical levels and functional departments were interviewed on their experiences of change and the emotional reactions they produced.


Negative emotions were evoked when members sensed a lack of control, a loss of control or the possibilities of mismanaging control in an organizational change. Positive emotions were reported for those able to exert control over processes and outcomes. The metaphor of the rollercoaster effect of positive and negative emotions was specifically used by a number of participants, while several others referred to an associated metaphor, the grief cycle.

Research limitations/implications

Participants were not asked what control over change they preferred, and dispositional and cultural issues were not specifically explored. The limitations of the rollercoaster metaphor are addressed. Research implications include examining the role of traits like locus of control and self-efficacy from a qualitative perspective and identifying the part ethnic or national culture plays in perceptions of control over change.

Practical implications

Management needs to allow participation in decision making wherever possible to fortify perceptions of control over change and to develop in members feelings of self-efficacy and well-being.


The study demonstrates how control over organizational change produces emotional responses that influence commitment and resistance to change.



Kark Smollan, R. (2014), "Control and the emotional rollercoaster of organizational change", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 399-419.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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