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Causes of stress before, during and after organizational change: a qualitative study

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

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 13 April 2015




Since prior empirical research has seldom compared causes of stress before, during and after organizational change the purpose of this paper is to identify stressors as change unfolded over time and to identify what led to variations in stress levels.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2012 with 31 staff in clinical and non-clinical positions in a New Zealand public health organization that had experienced considerable change.


For most respondents the transition phase was the most stressful as it created job insecurity and was handled with insufficient information, consultation and support. For the balance stress increased after the change, which created additional demands that usually needed to be met with fewer resources. The stress of others emerged as a new category of stressor during the transition stage.

Research limitations/implications

Memories fade and the lines between stages of change are often blurred with one change sometimes occurring simultaneously with another or following it. Further studies could explore stressors at different points in time, in different national contexts and in private and public organizations.

Practical implications

Leaders of public sector organizations need to be mindful of the deleterious effects of stress from organizational change and create cultures, strategies and practices that mitigate the stress.


This is apparently the first qualitative study that traces the causes of stress as organizational change moves through various phases.



Smollan, R.K. (2015), "Causes of stress before, during and after organizational change: a qualitative study", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 301-314.



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