First Steps: Linking Change Communication to Change Receptivity

Author(s), Title and Publication:

Frahm, J., & Brown, K. (2007). First steps: Linking change communication to change receptivity. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 20(3), 370-387.


Employees’ receptivity to organizational change is an emerging and significant issue for those involved in creating successful change implementation strategies. Traditionally, organizational communication is considered an instrument for implementing changes by transmitting information from top management to employees. Recently, an emerging trend recognizes communication as discourse and dialog, where employees actively make sense of the organizational change and construct their own new reality. This paper is cognizant of both internal change communication approaches and attempts to reveal the relationship between organizational change communication and employees’ change receptivity. In addition, the authors are particularly interested in continuous change organizations, which engage in ongoing, evolving, and cumulative adjustments.

This paper adopted a case study approach, by examining the first 100 days’ change communication and employee receptivity in a public sector organization chartered with technology diffusion, Tech D. The researchers cross-compared the results of employee observation, internal communication documentation analysis, focus group interviews, and surveys of employees. The findings suggest that the majority of employees felt positive and accepting of change at the very beginning of the proposed change. However, as the change implementation unfolded, those employees who were close to middle range management remain positive towards the change; whereas those employees where not interactive with management expressed uncertainty and a concern at the lack of organizational vision and direction and felt frustrated because of a lack of involvement in the change process and a lack of information about the changes. The communication vacuum between middle managers and employees led to employees constructing their own change realities through informal discussions, resulting in cynicism, contempt, and decreased receptivity to the change process.

Implications for Practitioners

Managers who are going to implement change plans, especially in continuous change organizations should 1) actively involve employees in the change process, not just “making them feel included,” 2) align their communications style with employees’ expectation towards the functions of internal communication, and 3) clearly communicate the goal of change and the effects of change on employees’ own corporate lives to avoid frustration and uncertainty.

Location of Article

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

Posted in [Research Library], Change Communication and Management, Employee / Organizational Communication and tagged , , , , , , , .

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