The Roles of Sensegiving Language and Context in Change Announcement Acceptance

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Do leaders use sensegiving language in organization-wide planned change announcements? Does sensegiving language prompt organizational support? What contextual factors influence the reception of change announcements? These questions were explored in an analysis of written reorganization announcements across three executive administrations within a university. We found that sensegiving language was used when the reorganization decision was discretionary and when it was inconsistent with the values of shared governance and campus autonomy. Sensegiving language was associated with acceptance of the announcements but only when it was appropriate for the organizational setting. Leadership style appeared to influence internal support independent of language. Our findings suggest that although discursive ability might allow leaders to craft persuasive statements, the delivery of a change message must be consonant with contextual elements that include culture, external environment, organizational atmosphere, and leadership style. MAD statement: When leaders announce a major organizational change, they must build support for the decision by using language that convinces organizational members to commit to successful change implementation. Despite numerous models of change management, there is little research that identifies what language is most effective to do so. This study analysed three university reorganization announcements and found that executives received support for decisions when they used language that was congruent with organizational values and their leadership style. Ideal content by itself was not sufficient to inspire support, nor was it necessary when a planned change was in reaction to the environment.

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Journal of Change Management

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