The causal effects of referential vs ideological justification of change
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Organizational Change Management. 2019, 32 (4), 397-408. 10.1108/JOCM-11-2018-0323
Purpose This paper details an experimental study (n=197) that explores how different types of managerial change justifications affect employees’ reactions. The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of managerial justification of a controversial decision in referential terms, ideological terms or a combination of the two. Design/methodology/approach A randomized controlled experiment was used applying case-based video clips to ensure vividness and realism in the experimental manipulation. Findings The results show that referential justification caused a drop in the perceived trustworthiness of management, such that it reduced employees’ perceptions of the manager’s integrity. The effect was most pronounced in participants having elevated levels of dispositional resistance to change. The drop in perceived integrity was indirectly associated with reduced intention to support the change together with adverse affective and cognitive reactions to change. Originality/value A robust test of different change justifications in a randomized, controlled setting, which also highlights the psychological mechanisms through which referential change justifications reduce follower trust. This result should help managers more readily understand the components of successful communication in organizational change.