New Paper: Employees’ Adaptability and Perceptions of Change-Related Uncertainty

And now for something completely different….

Five years ago I began working with Bryan Edwards (then a psychology professor at Auburn; now at Oklahoma State) and his students Kristin Cullen and Camron Casper on the state of distribution workers with respect to job satisfaction and some other measures. Our work was funded by a small grant from the Material Handling Institute of America.

A paper from that effort has just appeared in the Journal of Business and Psychology in digital form with the title “Employees’ Adaptability and Perceptions of Change-Related Uncertainty: Implications for Perceived Support, Job Satisfaction, and Performance;” you can access it here (three cheers for open access!).

The Discussion section contains both theoretical and practical insights, but the basic finding is that workers are more inclined to receive change positively when (1) they perceive organizational support and (2) their own personalities reflect adaptability.  By “receive change positively” I mean workers will have a higher sense of job satisfaction and level of performance.

For organizations in the material handling and logistics industry, which are open to technological change in particular, the results suggest that executives should plan carefully when adopting new systems. Workers want to know the details about how their jobs will change, when the changes will occur, how they will be evaluated in the new environment, and so on. All of this should be done well ahead of the implementation.

Not included in the article are some stories I have been told about “change gone wrong” as a result of workers’ reaction to new automation in particular. Automation has its place in logistics (and I think it needs a greater place), but people still make it happen.

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