Since Kurt Lewin formulated his change model in 1951 the frequency and dynamics of organizational changes have been exploded. His stage model included the phases unfreezing, changing (transitions), (re-)freezing. However, it can be doubted whether organizations today ever come into the "frozen" state. Restructuring measures became a stress test for large parts of today’s workforce and are sometimes even existence-threatening. Prior findings indicate that restructuring or change experiences went along with less commitment, lower job satisfaction, reduced job involvement, higher turnover intentions, as well as a decline in the ratings of the organization as trustworthy. In the same vein, such changes led to a drop in employees’ physical and mental health. We try to shed light on boundary conditions buffering or aggravating the effects of organizational change.

Overall, research is still needed to differentiate the extraordinary cases – affecting the organization as a whole (e.g., closure), – from daily restructuring events – impacting only specific parts of the organization (e.g., change of leaders), slow from fast change processes, anticipated long-term from surprising fast-term changes, or quantitative (e.g., lay-offs) from qualitative changes (e.g., merger). A prior research project allowed a first evaluation of similarities or differences due to the types of restructuring, how they are implemented, and what features they include. A broad overview can be obtained from the German project summary available as a short report.

Selected publications

Otto, K., Thomson, B., & Rigotti, T. (2018). When dark leadership exacerbates the effects of restructuring. Journal of Change Management, 18, 96-115. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14697017.2018.1446691?journalCode=rjcm20

Tanner, G., & Otto, K. (2016). Superior-subordinate-communication during organizational change: Under which conditions does a high-quality communication become important? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27, 2183-2201. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09585192.2015.1090470?journalCode=rijh20

Otto, K., Rigotti, T., & Mohr, G. (2013). Psychological effects of restructuring. In A.-S. G. Antoniou & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), The psychology of the recession on the workplace (pp. 261-275). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Otto, K., & Dalbert, C. (2012). Willingness to accept occupational change when offered incentives: Comparing full-time and part-time employees. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 21, 222-243. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1359432X.2010.550734

Rigotti, T. & Otto, K. (2012). Organisationaler Wandel und die Gesundheit von Beschäftigten [Organizational change and health of employees]. Zeitschrift für Arbeitswissenschaft, 66, 253-267. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03373885