Feeling valued: the role of communication in preparing employees for change

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    This doctoral research explored the role of communication in preparing employees for transformational change and enhancing their sense of feeling valued. It investigated the research questions: (1) What does feeling valued mean to employees? (2) How does communication affect employees’ sense of feeling valued in preparing for transformational change? The literature review suggested that the employee emotional experience of organisational change was under-researched and that feeling valued could improve employees’ support for change.

    The inquiry was conducted from a social constructionist perspective adopting Appreciative Inquiry (AI), juxtaposed with the Jungian Shadow. The methodology was based on a qualitative multiple case study comprising three projects, namely an Integrative Literature Review (ILR) and case studies of non-managerial employees in two Australian agricultural organisations. In addition to literature, the multiple case study was based on Appreciative interviews, organisational documents and my reflective memos. Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory methods (2014) were used for the data analysis, complemented with Saldaña’s affective coding methods (2016).

    The first project, an ILR, provided early ideas for conceptualising feeling valued through synthesising findings from 17 relevant publications, although not in organisational change contexts. Through emotion coding and grounded theory analytical methods, the different perspectives of feeling valued were integrated. Ultimately, seven feeling categories were co-constructed for the meaning of feeling valued to employees, namely belonging, contributing, meaning and feeling supported, trusted, respected and appreciated. These seven feelings were not mutually exclusive.

    The second project was a case study of 15 non-managerial employees who had experienced mostly positive change in their farmer-owned research and marketing organisation. The purpose of this case study was to understand, in a real-life setting, what feeling valued meant to participants and how communication influenced that feeling when preparing for change. Values coding was used for the participants’ Appreciative interviews to understand the cultural context for feeling valued and communicating change. Three categories, accepting, contributing and feeling supported were co-constructed as being the cultural strengths for feeling valued in that organisation. For communicating change, feeling valued meant communicating supportively, being open and contributing to change.

    The third project was a case study of 12 non-managerial employees with a contrasting experience of organisational changes in an agricultural government department. Values and Versus coding of the participants’ Appreciative interviews revealed the underlying tension and conflicting values, beliefs and attitudes between the participants and those in authority. Through moiety analysis and grounded theory methods, two subcultures were unearthed, ‘Service-Giving’ and ‘Political-Power’. Feeling valued was constructed from the ‘Service-Giving’ values, beliefs and attitudes as contributing, belonging and empowering. In terms of communicating change, feeling valued meant being open and contributing to change. Participants viewed the ‘Political-Power’ subculture as controlling information with change driven from the top, separating or divisive, forcing a predetermined solution and requiring meaningless work.

    The key concepts from the three projects were theorised further to construct a tentative framework of Change Communication processes for leaders, managers and change practitioners to communicate change in a way that employees feel valued. The proposed framework is discussed through the lens of the eight AI theoretical principles and the Jungian Shadow. Questions are posed for its further development and research. The framework challenges a fundamental belief of rationalist change management approaches.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Communication
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Fawkes, Dr Johanna, Principal Supervisor
    • Taylor, Jill, Co-Supervisor
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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