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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Adaptation to organizational change Farrell, Seonaid


The dimensional structure of adaptation to organizational change was identified. The dimensions were related to personality, work attitude, and job stress variables. The research extends previous research on adaptation to change at work (e.g. Chan, 2000; Pulakos et al., 2000) by examining adaptation in the context of large-scale organizational change and by empirically deriving its dimensional structure. Characteristics of adaptation to organizational change were identified by obtaining critical incidents of adaptation from 47 managers from four organizations following a merger and restructuring. A questionnaire was developed from these characteristics to measure adaptation to organizational change. Data on the questionnaire from 553 managers yielded five dimensions, which were interpreted and labelled: Supporting Change, Resisting Change, Career Development, Initiating Effort, and Building Social Capital. Openness, emotional stability, agreeableness, and positive self-concept were positively related to four of the five adaptation dimensions. Linear combinations of the personality traits predicted the adaptation dimensions moderately well (Rs ranged .29 to .42). Work attitude variables were associated with Resisting Change. Job stress was positively related to Resisting Change and Initiating Effort. Two second-order factors were obtained, distinguishing between problem-focused and emotion-focused adaptation dimensions. A taxonomy of adaptation strategies was identified to reveal how individuals differ in their relative use of the five adaptation dimensions. These strategies were interpreted and labelled: strategy 1, strategy 2, highly responsive, moderately responsive, and unresponsive. Adaptation to organizational change is a multidimensional construct representing meaningful differences in how employees adapt. The five dimensions appear to differ on the basis of whether they reflect problem-focused or emotion-focused efforts to adapt. The implications for management practice include both personnel selection and training. Personnel selection on the basis of personality traits would increase adaptability among employees. Measurement of adaptation to organizational change among employees would then identify developmental needs, and training could be designed to meet those needs.

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