Four Strategies for Communicating with Employees During a Major Change

Topic: Change Communication

Authors, Title and Publication

Christensen, M. (2014). Communication as a strategic tool in change processes. Journal of Business Communication51(4), 359-385.


A major challenge for organizations is to develop both climate and leadership strategies that allow them to cope with challenges such as downsizing, re-engineering, flattening structures, global competition, and the introduction of new technology. One approach to a successful change process could be through the establishment of effective communication and information strategies within the organization, while implementing change. The aim of this study was to develop, test, and partly validate a measure of organizational communication related to change.

Based on literature reviews, pilot interviews, and a survey study, the author created a measure of change communication that includes five categories: social contact, central leadership, information, influence, and barriers to improvement. The two first communication categories—social contact and central leadership—pertain to employee perceptions of communication in terms of social interaction. Lack of close interaction and adequate information from leaders fuels rumors and gossip, which could lead to increased anxiety and insecurity about the future in the organization. The third dimension refers to high-quality formal information provided during change and reorganization, which could reduce psychological insecurity about the effects of change and in addition increase acceptance, openness, and commitment to change. Influence refers to involving employees directly in planning and implementing change and thereby allowing them to contribute to making the change successful. Lastly, barriers to improvement are related to employee perception of aspects in the organization that obstruct communication and its improvement. The barriers to organizational communication could easily increase during a change process, caused by the proliferation of rumors, insecurity, and anxiety about the future. It is necessary to identify these barriers at different stages of a change process to reduce and deal with them.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should 1) provide sufficient, complete, and high-quality information to employees during organizational change; 2) facilitate contact between employees, coworkers, supervisors, and leaders; 3) explain the rationale for change, the consequences of not changing, and how the organization will appear after the changes; and 4) invite feedback and participation from employees during the change process.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Posted in [Research Library], Employee / Organizational Communication, Leadership Communications and tagged , , , , , , .

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