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The problem discussed in the article “The Role of Organisational Commitment in the Analysis of Resistance to Change: Co-Predictor and Moderator Effects,” written by Peccei, Giangreco, and Sebastiano, is employees’ resistance to change (RTC). The authors point out that organizations need to be ready to implement changes in their business process in order to function successfully and efficiently. Nevertheless, employees’ resistance to change interferes with this capacity to change. Two factors contribute to RTC: whether employees perceive the change as beneficial or detrimental and how the employees are involved in the process of change.
The authors also stress the importance of organizational commitment. Research covering the impact of organizational commitment on employee attitudes is scarce. The authors approach the problem by researching the integration of organizational commitment (OC) in RTC theory and examining whether it can be a potential antecedent of resistance or a moderator between perceived benefits and RTC.
The authors present a set of five hypotheses that focus on the perceived benefits of change (PBC), attitudes toward change (ATC), organizational commitment, and involvement in the change process (IIC). The first hypothesis states that PBC will be positively related to ATC, IIC will be positively related to ATC, and OC will be positively related to ATC; in addition, ATC will be negatively related to RTC, and a negative relationship between PBC and RTC, as well as OC and RTC, will be established. The second hypothesis states that OC will moderate the relationship between PBC and ATC; that is to say, the positive relationship between PBC and ATC will strengthen at higher levels of OC.
The third hypothesis states OC will moderate the relationship between IIC and ATC (the positive relationship between these two units strengthens at higher levels of OC). The fourth hypothesis states OC will moderate the relationship between ATC and RTC (the negative relationship between these two units strengthens at higher levels of OC). The fifth hypothesis states OC will moderate the relationship between PBC and RTC (the negative relationship strengthens at higher levels of OC).
The Need for the Study
The authors point out that there is limited research about the factors that affect RTC, although multiple studies have been dedicated to antecedents of RTC. The problem, therefore, is that research can indicate or predict what influences RTC in employees but lacks any systematic approach to the issue. Furthermore, theoretical models are rarely tested in such research studies, which substantially limits the understanding of RTC and the factors that either enhance or diminish it. Since most companies need to be ready to implement changes in their business in order to function effectively, understanding RTC is directly linked to the companies’ ability to maintain a competitive advantage. The effects of organizational commitment on employees also remain under-researched. OC is not perceived as an antecedent in the majority of the studies.
The research was conducted within an Italian national electricity company (ENEL), which underwent a process of transformation in 1995 that led to a reduction in middle managers. The authors collected the data using survey questionnaires. With the help of the organization’s HR Department, the authors distributed questionnaires to a random sample of middle managers (at headquarters and in the peripheral network). Of all middle managers in the company (6,000), 359 middle managers received the questionnaire; 322 employees returned the questionnaires to the authors of the study. The response rate was approximately 90 percent.
Since the research was conducted in 1997, the authors have been able to observe the changes in the company’s structure and the work of middle managers. These conditions allowed them to better understand the employees’ resistance to change.
Literature Review: Summary
The literature reviewed in the study mostly focuses on the following concepts: RTC, change, organizational commitment, perceived benefits of change, involvement in the change process, and attitude toward change. The authors refer to Giangreco and Peccei (1812), who used the classic RTC model in their research to understand the nature and antecedents of RTC in middle managers in Italy, which makes this work somewhat similar to the analyzed study. At the same time, the classic RTC model was derived from other research studies, for example, Coch and French (512), Lawrence (49), and others.
The key factors (how employees see change and how they are involved in it) are also taken from previous studies conducted by Lawrence (49), Kotter and Schlesinger (106), and others. The authors describe the results of the study conducted by Giangreco and Peccei (1812), who state that RTC negatively relates to PBC and IIC. Furthermore, the impact of PBC and IIC on RTC was mediated by the managers’ ATC. Thus, those managers who thought that the benefits outweighed the costs and took part in the change were more likely to perceive these changes positively.
The authors discuss the two studies that explicitly investigate the OC’s influence on employees’ ATC and RTC. Iverson (122) and Herscovitch and Meyer (765) found that OC positively related to improved employee attitude and response to change. Nevertheless, evidence that could support such statements remained limited, which is why the authors decided to conduct a systematic study. Fedor et al. (3) also stated that very few studies actually examined employees’ reactions to both change and the organization.
Assumptions, Limitations, and Future Research
OC had a significant effect on RTC, but its moderating effect in relation to RTC was not proven by the study. A process of change can create new opportunities for management, as well, and enhance OC among the employees of an organization. Employees need to be involved in the process of change; this way, their attachment to the company will be reinforced.
The limitations of the study are as follows: Its design is cross-sectional and precludes the systematic testing of causal relations between the variables of the study. Self-reports could produce bias related to socially desirable answers. Lastly, the sample consisted of a single occupational group (one company); thus, the generalizability of the results remains doubtful.
According to the authors, future research should focus on testing various models and using longitudinal data that should be collected during different periods of time in different organizations.
The study has found that the OC, PBC, and IIC are important co-predictors of resistance to change. The authors point out that the findings of the study contribute to previous research by providing the following claim: Employees’ ATC is a mediating mechanism that can help OC reduce resistance to change. The role of OC should not be ignored in the analysis of RTC because otherwise, the influence of PBC and IIC can be overestimated. At the same time, the authors also conclude that PBC and IIC can benefit employee commitment to the organization. Thus, the role of OC in reducing resistance to change is more dynamic and complex compared to the previous assumptions expressed in several studies. High levels of OC have the potential to contribute to the reduction of RTC.
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Critique of the Article
The study examines the relations between RTC and OC, and how these relations can negatively or positively influence employees’ RTC and commitment to the organization. The study’s strength is its aim to understand the role of OC as a moderator of RTC; previous studies rarely chose such an approach or did not explicitly examine the relationships between RTC and OC. Another strength of the study is its sample size. It is relatively large and random, and it includes managers both from the headquarters of the company and those who work within the peripheral network. Thus, the sample size is not completely homogenous.
The authors’ decision to test various alternative models of OC should also be seen as one of the study’s strengths since previous studies mostly examined OC as an outcome of the response to change. The survey questionnaire provided to the employees guaranteed anonymous answers and decreased the chance of emerging interpretation bias as this phenomenon happens during open-question interviews. The authors used a substantial variety of studies for their literature review; their critique of the studies was solid and to the point. Furthermore, the authors also conducted research during a major shift in the company, which allowed them to test their hypothesis “in the field” and collect more relevant answers. The multiple hypotheses used by the authors also contributed to the study’s fidelity.
At the same time, the study had several limitations and weaknesses. First, as the authors note, the research was conducted in 1997, but the study was published in 2011, more than ten years after the research had ended. It is possible that the research’s findings were obsolete by the time the study was published. The study was conducted within one Italian organization; therefore, it is very likely that the findings of the study can only specifically relate to the RTC and OC in the mentioned organization and cannot be generalized.
The sample size consisted of middle managers only, all from the same organization and same state, which again interferes with the study’s generalizability. Lastly, the authors relied heavily on a study conducted by other Italian researchers; it is reasonable to assume that the results of such a study would be different in France, Germany, or any other European or non-European state.
Another weakness of the study is its cross-sectional design. Such designs, although often used in social science, are sometimes unable to include additional variables to examine the issue more deeply. Thus, the previous factors that could influence the relationships between RTC and OC are not examined.
The self-reports used in the study also present a danger to the study’s fidelity. As already mentioned by the authors, there is a chance of possible bias among the employees because some of the respondents could have chosen “socially desirable” answers. Furthermore, since the answers were subjective, they could also depend on an individual’s mood, health status, work experience, and relationships with colleagues and top managers/chairpersons. Some of the employees might have decided not to express disagreement or might have chosen to “smooth” some of the answers. Nevertheless, the study provided valuable information about the role of OC in RTC and significantly contributed to the research of RTC despite its weaknesses.