Staff Preferences in Four SMEs Experiencing Organizational Change

Mendy, John (2020) Staff Preferences in Four SMEs Experiencing Organizational Change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 33 (2). pp. 331-348. ISSN 0953-4814

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Staff Preferences in Four SMEs Experiencing Organizational Change
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of preferences when SMEs are confronted with the practical problems associated with implementing frequent and large scale changes to their working policies and practices. This paper aims to alleviate some of the concerns as claimed in positioning and change agency theory by introducing ‘preferential role positioning’ to organizational change.

Design/Methodology/approach – This study uses a qualitative case study approach and change agency and positioning theories to find out the extent to which staff and management experienced the practical difficulties and challenges and what resolution actions they took. Eighty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2004/05 and 2011 with the staff and management of four SMEs in the UK. An interpretative analysis was conducted on the case data in the tradition of Husserl and Schutz. In the first set, participants were asked to elucidate the difficulties faced in their roles and how these were experienced whilst the second focused on impacts and strategies. Three independent researchers reviewed and interpreted the qualitative data and helped with the coding and thematisation.

Findings – This paper's main results are based on the data's three stages showing how SME members chose to deal with the practical difficulties namely ‘new structures and procedures’ (stage 1); ‘new ways of communicating’ (stage 2) and ‘new collaborations’ (stage 3). The combination of the stages’ aspects led to the emergence of ‘preferential role positioning’ as the study’s theoretical contribution to the gap on preferences in organizational change research.

Research limitations – The eighty-five interviews from UK-based SMEs constrained the sample size thereby limiting the number of questionnaire categories asked. The findings and their analysis cannot be generalised to non SMEs that seek to address similar difficulties.

Practical implications – Managers need to be aware of the adverse impacts of using draconian, top down disciplinary and punishment measures/structures as a way to implement change. Other practical lessons include the fact that managers should contextualise people’s anxieties, dissatisfaction, resistance and disengagement as a platform from which social knowledge can be generated with all change agents in order to resolve implementation challenges in the longer term. Staff developed the ability to deal with some practical issues such as navigating through the new departmental structures, new working procedures and new ways of talking with management and with each other to implement change more successfully.

Social implications - The social value of the findings demonstrate that preferences can be imported from other social science disciplines into Organizational Studies to show the value of what people can contribute and how they choose to do so (i.e. via what discourse, using what types of interactions and capabilities to do so). In addition, the results show that management need to consider employees in their plans as they try to implement change firstly to facilitate greater interaction and success, secondly to minimise implementation difficulties and thirdly as a recognition that there are multiple change agents and multiple role-enacting positions in developing sociological knowledge that can be of value.

Originality/value – This study’s three-stage approach has shown that a successful implementation and management of change in SMEs should also include a bottom-up recognition of the difficulties, adversities, conflicts and tensions and a resolution to deal with the structural and communicative constraints via dialogue and ‘preferential role positioning’

Keywords:staff, management, preferences, SMEs, organizational change
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N600 Human Resource Management
N Business and Administrative studies > N214 Change Management
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:39446
Deposited On:15 Jan 2020 09:52

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