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Commitment to organizational change in a Chinese context

Runtian Jing (Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China)
Jia Lin Xie (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Jing Ning (School of Management and Economics, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine the antecedents (psychological contract and perceived reasons for change) and consequences (work behaviors and well-being) of employees’ commitment to organizational change.


The authors developed a conceptual model of the antecedents and consequences of commitment to organizational change. In Study 1, based on interviews, the authors developed an instrument to measure the construct “reasons for change.” In Study 2, the authors collected questionnaire data from 228 employees of a Chinese telecom company undergoing organizational changes and tested the conceptual model using structural equation modeling.


The results showed that the strength of a relational contract (one form of psychological contract) was positively related to normative commitment to change and negatively related to continuance commitment to change. External reasons for change were positively related to affective and normative commitment to change, whereas internal reasons for change were negatively related to affective commitment to change and positively related to continuance commitment to change. Affective commitment was negatively related to exit and aggressive voice. Continuance commitment was positively related to emotional exhaustion, and normative commitment was negatively related to emotional exhaustion.

Research limitations/implications

The single-source cross-sectional design limits the robustness of the conclusions drawn from the findings. Two promising avenues were opened for further research: the interaction of employees’ commitment to change at different levels and the process of social construction of perceived reasons for change.

Practical implications

To facilitate employee commitment to change, organizations should cultivate relational contracts with their employees and attend to the “framing effects” of employees’ perceptions of reasons for change.

Social implications

This study contributes to the understanding of the relationship between employer-employee relations and employee well-being in Chinese society. It suggests that healthy employer-employee relations are beneficial for employee well-being. Moreover, Chinese firms should pay more attention to the changes occurring inside and outside their organizations, which are related to the psychological health of their employees.


The study highlights the importance of relational contracts between an organization and its employees during organizational change process. Moreover, it is among the first to examine the relationship between employees’ perceived reasons for change and their commitment to change.



Jing thanks Doctoral Fund of Ministry of Education of China and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities for their support on this research.


Jing, R., Lin Xie, J. and Ning, J. (2014), "Commitment to organizational change in a Chinese context", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 29 No. 8, pp. 1098-1114.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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