Employee perceptions of organizational change: Impact of hierarchical level

Liz Jones, Bernadette Watson, Elizabeth Hobman, Prashant Bordia, Cindy Gallois, Victor J. Callan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of organizational level on employees' perceptions and reactions to a complex organizational change involving proposed work force redesign, downsizing and a physical move to a new hospital. Design/methodology/approach Participants included executives, supervisory and nonsupervisory staff in a major tertiary hospital. Recorded indepth interviews were conducted with 61 employees about the positive and negative aspects of the change. Findings A total of 12 themes were identified from content coding, including emotional responses and attitudes toward the change, issues about the management of the change process and about change outcomes. Supervisory and nonsupervisory staff referred more to conflict and divisions, and expressed more negative attitudes toward the change, than did executives. Executives and supervisory staff focused more on planning challenges and potential outcomes of the change than did nonsupervisory staff. Finally, compared to other staff, executives focused more on participation in the change process and communication about the change process. Research limitations/implications This study examines the organizational change at only one time point in one organization. Perceptions of the change may change over time, and other identities like professional identity may influence perceptions. Practical implications These findings suggest that change agents should consider the needs of different organizational groups in order to achieve effective and successful organizational change. Originality/value This study clearly shows the impact of organizational level, identifying similarities and differences in perceptions of change across level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-316
Number of pages23
JournalLeadership & Organization Development Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotional intelligence
  • Leadership
  • Learning organizations

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