Bringing Back the Cynics!

Topic: Change Management, Job Attitudes
Publication: Human Resource Management
Article: Organizational change cynicism: the role of employee involvement.
Author: M. Brown, C. Cregan
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

Organizational cynicism involves a negative attitude on the part of an employee toward his/her  organization. It’s the belief or feeling that one’s organization has sacrificed the basic principles of honesty and fairness to further the self-interest of organizational leaders (CEOs taking $20,000 flights on private jets while begging congress for bailout…hmm…).

But, there can be many different targets of cynicism (organization as a whole, specific managers, organization change efforts, etc). In order to shed light on the issue of employee cynicism toward organizational change efforts (AKA Organizational Change Cynicism – OCC), researchers Brown and Cregan (2008) empirically investigated several factors that may reduce the likelihood of OCC (i.e., employees becoming cynical of change efforts).

Why should organizations give a hoot about whether their employees are cynical of their change efforts? Here’s why: Cynical employees may have lower commitment to the organization, lower job satisfaction, and may be less likely to engage in behaviors that help the organization (i.e., organizational  citizenship behaviors).

But, Brown and Cregan’s findings show that OCC can be thwarted by a few relatively simple actions: (1) Information Sharing and (2) Employee Involvement in Decision Making.

So here’s the upshot: When management (the custodian of information) shares vital information about the organizational change effort (through workshops, training, written materials, etc.)and gives employees a voice in the decision making processes, they return the favor by being less cynical.

But, this does not mean that organizations can simply give the ILLUSION of information sharing or voice.  If they do this, it may actually lead to higher levels of employee OCC. So how can organizations manage OCC?  Organizations can encourage their managers to share decision-making responsibilities and take an active role in sharing relevant information with their employees.

Brown, M., & Cregan, C. (2008). Organizational change cynicism: The role of employee   involvement. Human Resource Management, 47(4), 667-686.