Minds, hearts and deeds

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Minds, Hearts and Deeds: Cognitive,
Affective and Behavioural Responses to
Change
ROY KARK SMOLLAN
Faculty of Business, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
ABSTRACT When people are faced with changes to some aspect of their working lives they respond
on a number of levels: cognitive, affective and behavioural. The behavioural responses are outcomes
of the cognitive and emotional reactions, and are mediated and moderated by a number of variables,
some of which lie in the context of the employee, some in the context of the change managers, and
some in the context of the organisation. In this article a model will be presented that identifies a
range of reactions to change and a series of propositions that can be tested empirically.
KEY WORDS: Organisational change, cognitive, affective, behavioural responses
Introduction
Leaders of change will hope, if not expect, that organisational members will
comply with the change initiative, and preferably enthusiastically support it
with appropriate action (Piderit, 2000). Duck (1993) suggests that organisations
that introduce change need to gain the hearts and minds of their members if the
change is to be successful. A number of researchers into organisational behaviour
have criticised the neglect of emotion, both by managers and fellow researchers
(e.g. Ashforth and Humphrey, 1995; Fisher and Ashkanasy, 2000). Studies of
organisational change in particular have also been criticised for excluding the
affective domain and focussing on cognitive and behavioural aspects (Mossholder
et al., 2000). Since change is often an “affective event” (Weiss and Cropanzano,
1996; Basch and Fisher, 2000) analysing its emotional impacts is critical.
Journal of Change Management
Vol. 6, No. 2, 143–158, June 2006
Correspondence Address: Roy Kark Smollan, Management and Employment Relations, Faculty of Business,
Auckland University of Technology, Private Bag 92006, Auckland, New Zealand. E-mail:
roy.smollan@aut.ac.nz
1469-7017 Print=1479-1811 Online=06=020143–16 # 2006 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080=14697010600725400
Gersick (1991) has distinguished between incremental and radical change and
points to the resulting positive and negative emotions. While she did not differentiate
between the emotions that are likely under different types of change it seems
logical that radical change will produce more emotional reaction than incremental
change, since the ramifications of the former are much greater. It must also be
noted that change is often a process that unfolds over time, sometimes years
(Piderit, 2000; Isabella, 1990; Paterson and Cary, 2002), and that the human
responses will be as dynamic as the changes themselves. Changes of greater complexity
are likely to generate more negative and more intense emotions (Kiefer,
2004) and more resistance (George and Jones, 2001), and therefore require
more careful and sustained management. However, it will be suggested in this
article, that no matter what type of change is contemplated, leaders will need to
gauge how employees might respond on all three levels.
In this article I will review literature on the relationship between cognition and
emotion in the context of change, present a model of cognitive, affective and behavioural
responses to change, analyse the variables that mediate and moderate these
responses, and derive a related set of propositions that can be tested empirically.
Cognition and Emotion in the Context of Change
The relationship between emotion and cognition has been debated for centuries by
philosophers, psychologists, novelists and organisational theorists, with a number
of different conclusions—emotion is the opposite of reason (Weber, 1946),
emotion is deeply interwoven with reason (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1995),
emotion can occur independently of reason (Zajonc, 1980; Izard, 1992).
Cognition is a process of thought in which a person first becomes aware of
stimuli, appraises the significance of those stimuli and then considers possible
behavioural responses (Scherer, 1999). Emotions are immediate responses to
environmental stimuli that are important to the individual and tend to be short
in duration (Frijda, 1988; Gray and Watson, 2001). Emotion needs to be distinguished
from moods, which are more diffuse in nature, not specifically linked to
events or objects, lower in intensity and longer lasting (Gray and Watson, 2001;
Weiss and Cropanzano, 1996), and from temperament, which is a facet of disposition
and is a relatively stable and biologically-rooted pattern of individual
differences (Bates, 2000). Affect comprises emotion, mood and temperament.
Circumplex models of affect have analysed its dimensions along two main axes,
pleasantness (positive and negative emotions) and arousal or activation (high
and low) (Tellegen et al., 1999; Russell and Carroll, 1999).
Lazarus (1991) suggests that the relationship between cognition and emotion is
bidirectional—emotion influences cognition, cognition elicits emotion. He asserts
that while cognition does not necessarily lead to emotion, emotion cannot occur
without cognition. Emotion alerts the individual to factors in the environment
which are potentially significant. For example, a feeling of anxiety may heighten
awareness of the need to take action, while guilt and anger produce thoughts that
may lead to redress of an injustice.
In the context of organisational change employees become aware of change
through a variety of mechanisms, from formal communication, peer discussion
144 R. K. Smollan
and other observable cues. Through primary appraisal (Lazarus, 1999) employees
evaluate the significance of the change event for themselves (Weiss and
Cropanzano, 1996) and can extend this to the impact on others and the organisation
itself. Secondary appraisal focuses on the causes and agents of change,
and on possible coping strategies (Lazarus, 1999; Scherer, 1999; Paterson and
Hartel, 2002; Jordan et al., 2002). George and Jones’ (2001) model of resistance

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