Curing the Organizational Restructuring Blues

Topic: Change Management, Organizational Development
Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Article: Employee identification before and after an internal merger: A longitudinal analysis. Author: J. Bartels, J. Pruyn, S. DeJong
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

One employee factor crucial to the success of organizational change is the extent to which employees identify (align themselves) with their organizations prior to the restructuring.  But, employees can identify with the organization at different levels.  For example, employees can identify with the organization as a whole, with their particular department or division, or even their work group.

So how does employee identification effect organizational restructuring?  And how can we help assure that employees will identify with the “new” organization (or division/department) post merger or restructuring? In an effort to answer these questions, Bartels, Pruyn, and de Jong (2009) conducted a two and a half year study on an organization going through an internal restructuring (combining 13 departments into 5 new ones).

Bartels and colleagues’ findings suggest that employee identification with the organization as a whole  prior to the restructuring was an important determinant of their organizational identification after the departmental merger. In addition, perceived external prestige (how employees think the outside world views their organization) was also found to be an important determinant of employee identification post-merger.

However, overall organizational identification is not the real issue here!

The organization as a whole is not changing; the departments within the organization are changing. Bartels et al.’s findings suggest that employees’ identification with their department prior to the merger as well as the extent to which employees felt that departmental members communicated effectively (communication climate) with each other were important determinants of post-merger identification with the newly created department.

Interestingly, perceived eternal prestige was not found to be important to departmental identification.

Overall, these findings imply that successful mergers are partially determined by the workforce’s  identification with the “old” organization (or organizational unit – department, division, work group). Managers should continuously monitor and foster employee identification (not just during restructuring) and ensure open and honest communication during restructuring.  And of course, it doesn’t hurt to be a highly reputable organization!

Bartels, J., Pruyn, A., de Jong, M. (2009). Employee identification before and after an internal merger: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82, 113-128.