Large-scale, long-term change initiatives take time to unfold, which can be a source of uncertainty and strain. Investigating the initial 19 months of a large-scale change, we argue that during these stages, employees' change-related beliefs become more negative over time, which negatively affects their work engagement and, ultimately, increases their turnover intentions. Furthermore, we investigate the impact of a trait, Machiavellianism, on change reactions and propose that employees high in Machiavellianism react more negatively during change processes as they are especially susceptible to uncertainty and stress. We test our (cross-level) moderated mediation model in a three-wave longitudinal study among employees undergoing a large-scale change (T1: n = 1,602; T2: n = 1,113; T3: n = 759). We find that employees' beliefs about the impact and value of the change are indeed negatively related to change duration and that decreases in these perceptions come with a decline in engagement and increases in turnover intentions. Moreover, employees high in Machiavellianism react more strongly to a deterioration in change-related beliefs, showing stronger reductions in engagement and stronger increases in turnover intentions than employees low in Machiavellianism. Our study offers explanations for the negative effects of large-scale changes including an explanatory factor for disparate employee reactions to change over time.

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Journal of Organizational Behavior
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Belschak, F.D, Belschak-Jacobs, G, Giessner, S.R, Horton, K.E, & Bayerl, P.S. (2020). When the going gets tough: Employee reactions to large-scale organizational change and the role of employee Machiavellianism. Journal of Organizational Behavior. doi:10.1002/job.2478