Perception is Reality: Change Leadership and Work Engagement
Leadership & Organization Development Journal
The purpose of this paper is to investigate how employee perceptions of change and leadership might impact work engagement following major organizational change.
Social media invited US workers recently experiencing major organizational change to anonymously complete a web-based survey requesting qualitative and quantitative responses. Values-based coding and thematic analysis were used to explore qualitative data. Hierarchical and linear regression, and bootstrapped mediation were used to analyze quantitative data.
Analysis of qualitative data identified employees’ perceptions of ideal change and ideal leadership were well supported in the change leadership literature. Analysis of quantitative data indicated that employee perceptions of leadership fully mediated the relationship between employee perceptions of change and work engagement.
Study findings imply that how employees perceive change is explained by how they perceive leadership during change, and that these perceptions impact work engagement. Although these findings appear commonsensical, the less than stellar statistics on major organizational change may encourage leaders to become more follower-focused throughout the change process.
The study makes a contribution to an understudied area of organizational research, specifically applied information processing theory. This is the first study that identifies employee perceptions of leadership as a mediator for perceptions of change and work engagement. From a value perspective, leaders as successful change agents recognize significant cost savings in dollars and human welfare by maintaining healthy workplaces with highly engaged workers.