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.

change beliefs, longitudinal study, Machiavellianism, organizational change, turnover intentions, work engagement,
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