Key Concepts in Change Management for Organizational Psychologists

Woman talking to another female

Industrial-organizational psychologists are experts in applying the principles of the scientific method to workplace challenges. They work with individuals, teams and organizations to enhance productivity, promote employee wellness and train effective workplace leaders. Change management is a major component of organizational psychology, as change is one of the few universal constants in any industry and any company.

The Changing of Change Management

Organizational psychologists know better than most people just how unpredictable people can be. There are many change management models that one can follow. But as effective as any of these models can be, it’s important to bear in mind that following a formula doesn’t always work because the people within the organization will do unpredictable things. It’s sometimes necessary to change the steps in change management in order to customize the model to suit the individual’s and organization’s needs. This customization requires a keen understanding of foundational principles.

The Senders and Receivers

The senders and receivers are at the heart of any organizational change. Viewing a change from both of these perspectives is critical to managing the message, since senders of information and receivers of that information can hear the same information in drastically different ways.

As an example, let’s say that Supervisor Joan and Employee Ross sit down to chat about an upcoming company-wide restructuring. Joan is excited about the growth opportunities this represents for her department and is confused about why Ross seems less enthusiastic. Ross, the receiver, doesn’t hear Joan’s message that, “The company is restructuring in order to capitalize on growth opportunities.” Instead, Ross hears, “The company is having financial difficulties and I may soon be out of a job.” Part of the responsibility of an organizational psychologist is to make sure messages aren’t lost in translation.

The Influence of Resistance

It’s a natural human instinct to be resistant to change. Change represents the unknown. Humans know that it could lead to better things for them, but change could just as likely lead to worse things. Organizational psychologists must consider the potential influencers of resistance to change, such as the following:

  • The emotional responses of anxiety and fear
  • The effect of the change on the employee’s job
  • The way the change fits into the employee’s established values
  • Whether or not the people announcing the change are perceived as trustworthy
  • How major changes have been implemented in the past at that company

The Magnitude and Speed of Change

Another key consideration in change management is the implementation of the change. To do their own jobs effectively, organizational psychologists must be equipped with information about the scope of the change, which departments or employees it will affect and how quickly the implementation will take place. Generally speaking, organizational psychologists can expect a higher level of resistance to change when the change involves drastic, rapid adjustments compared to minor, incremental adjustments.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.