Ethical Considerations and Change Recipients’ Reactions: ‘It’s Not All About Me’
An implicit assumption in most works on change recipient reactions is that employees are self-centred and driven by a utilitarian perspective. According to large parts of the organizational change literature, employees’ reactions to organizational change are mainly driven by observations around the question ‘what will happen to me?’ We analysed change recipients’ reactions to 26 large-scale planned change projects in a policing context on the basis of 23 in-depth interviews. Our data show that change recipients drew on observations with three foci (me, colleagues and organization) to assess change, making sense of change as multidimensional and mostly ambivalent in nature. In their assessment of organizational change, recipients care not only about their own personal outcomes, but go beyond self-interested concerns to show a genuine interest in the impact of change on their colleagues and organization. Meaningful engagement of employees in organizational change processes requires recognizing that reactions are not simply ‘all about me’. We add to the organizational change literature by introducing a behavioural ethics perspective on change recipients’ reactions highlighting an ethical orientation where moral motives that trigger change reactions get more attention than is common in the change management literature. Beyond the specifics of our study, we argue that the genuine concern of change recipients for the wellbeing of others, and the impact of the organizations’ activities on internal and external stakeholders, needs to be considered more systematically in research on organizational change.