Uncertainty During Organizational Change: Types, Consequences, and Management Strategies

Abstract

This research tested a model that classifies change uncertainty into three interrelated types: strategic, structural, and job-related. We predicted that control would mediate the effects of job-related uncertainty upon psychological strain, and that management communication and participation in decision-making (PDM) would reduce uncertainty and increase feelings of control. The model was tested in a public sector organization and the results supported it. Control was found to mediate the effects of job-related uncertainty upon psychological strain. Management communication was negatively related to strategic uncertainty, whereas PDM was negatively related to structural and job-related uncertainty, suggesting different mechanisms to deal with the types of uncertainty during change. Finally, PDM was positively associated with feelings of control and negatively associated with psychological strain. These results suggest that PDM can short-circuit the damaging effects of uncertainty by allowing employees to have a say in change related organizational affairs, thereby instilling a sense of control over their circumstances.

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Bordia, P., Hobman, E., Jones, E. et al. Uncertainty During Organizational Change: Types, Consequences, and Management Strategies. Journal of Business and Psychology 18, 507–532 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOBU.0000028449.99127.f7

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  • uncertainty
  • organizational change
  • communication