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Helping workers meet the challenges of ongoing change : what strategies help and hinder? Butterfield, Lee Denise

Abstract

Taking a positive psychology approach, this research looked at a little-studied subset of working women and men - those who experienced changes affecting their work and self-reported as handling them well. The primary purpose was to explore what strategies they employed that helped them handle change well, what hindered doing well, and whether there were things that would have been helpful but were unavailable. There were two secondary purposes: (1) to gain insight into the nature of the changes they had faced, the impacts of those changes, whether they had always handled change well, and if not, when that changed and why; and (2) to explore whether the research interview itself had an impact on participants. This was primarily a qualitative, exploratory study that used the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) (Flanagan, 1954) to elicit helping and hindering critical incidents and wish list items; and open-ended interview questions (Cozby, 1997; Palys, 1997) to gather information about participants' experiences of change. A quantitative component was embedded in the form of a pre- and post-interview scaling question (Palys, 1997) to determine if the interview had an impact. Data from the CIT portion of the study elicited ten helping, hindering and wish list categories: (1) Personal Attitudes/Traits/Emotional Set; (2) Support from Friends and Family; (3) Internal Framework and Boundaries; (4) Taking Action; (5) Self-care; (6) Support from Professionals; (7) Management Style and Work Environment; (8) Skill/Role Competence; (9) Support from Work Colleagues; and (10) Personal Life Changes/Issues, suggesting strategies can be employed that facilitate handling change well. Data from the quantitative portion resulted in a borderline large effect size, suggesting the interview had an impact on participants. Surprisingly, results from participants' stories of change and its impacts strongly paralleled results of studies in the unemployment, transition, burnout, and posttraumatic growth literature, suggesting this sample of workers was dealing with chaotic environments in many domains of their lives and even though they self-reported as doing well with the changes they were facing, there was a cost involved. Implications for workers, counsellors, vocational psychologists, career counsellors, human resource professionals, organizations, and future research and theory are discussed.

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