Research Insights: Attitudes towards organisational change in family and non-family businesses: A comparative analysis

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June, 2024 at 1:43 pm by Andre Camilleri

Sarah Attard, Front Office and Marketing Manager at Electrofix, graduated with a Master of Science in Strategic Management & Marketing from the Faculty of Economics, Management, and Accountancy, University of Malta.

Today’s dynamic business environment requires organisations to constantly adapt and change to stay competitive and achieve their goals. My qualitative study, entitled Attitudes Towards Organisational Change in Family and non-family Businesses: A Comparative Analysis, was motivated by the nature of this organisational dynamism in which I sought to explore the development of an individual’s attitude towards organisational change, considering cognitive, emotional and intentional dimensions. Other than that, for a better practical contribution, this study also aimed to discover whether it finds a difference in attitudes among employees who work in a family-run business and those who work in a non-family-run business. As such, determining whether the organisation’s composition impacts the formulation of attitudes towards organisational change.

A survey was used as a means of data collection, and a series of Likert-scale items and close ended questions were included, which in turn were analysed quantitatively to address the research questions. The study sought to explore the key factors that exert the most influence on employee attitudes in family-run businesses compared to non-family-run businesses and then understand whether the attitude towards specific organisational change differs between employees in family-run and non-family-run businesses. My intention to assess the various dimensions of attitudes among employees required study participants to recall a particular change they had gone through within the past 3 years or are currently experiencing. Due to the subjectivity that can be brought about when we think of change, I identified four categories of change: organisational processes, organisational functions, values and beliefs or power distribution. This categorisation ensured to minimise the subjectivity of change that the participants of this study had gone through, steering them into remembering the change process and answering questions along the cognitive, emotional and intentional dimensions to explore their attitudes towards change and compare these attitudes among the participants that worked within a family-run and non-family-run business.

The emerging attitudes from the study were predicated on factors that other contributors to the field of the study confirmed to have an influence on how attitudes are formed. These factors include: Threat Appraisal, Management Support, Change Participation, Change Politics and Self Efficacy. Hence, within the survey, constructed on the availability of scales of variables on such factors, I was able to determine whether the attitudes of the individuals were positively or negatively dependent on the factor’s contribution towards organisational change.

My research revealed that employees generally acknowledge the potential benefits of organisational change. However, there was a tendency towards neutrality when evaluating the impact of change, indicating conflicting thoughts. Emotionally, positive feelings outweighed negative ones, and there were passive intentions towards change with moderate positive support and less resistance. Factors like ‘Change Process,’ including ‘Change Participation’ and ‘Management Support,’ significantly influenced attitudes, with findings similar to those of previous studies. While no significant differences in attitudes towards organisational change were found between employees in family and non-family-run businesses, closer examination revealed variations in the ‘Change Process,’ particularly in ‘Change Participation.’ Employees within family-run businesses felt more control and involvement in proposed changes compared to employees within a non-family -run business, who displayed a more neutral stance.

While some differences in attitudes towards organisational change between family-run and non-family-run businesses were noted, the research suggests no statistically significant distinctions between the two groups.

From a practical standpoint, this study’s findings hold significant relevance for professionals and leaders navigating organisational change. By emphasizing the importance of employee attitudes, it offers crucial guidance for achieving successful outcomes during change initiatives. The results underscore the need to prioritize specific factors based on the organisational context. For family-owned businesses, the ‘Change Process’ is of utmost importance, followed by ‘Threat Appraisal,’ ‘Self-efficacy,’ and ‘Change Politics.’ In contrast, non-family-operated businesses should focus on ‘Change Process,’ ‘Change Politics,’ ‘Self-efficacy,’ and ‘Threat Appraisal.’ This tailored approach equips managers to effectively address and mitigate negative attitudes, thereby enhancing the success of change initiatives.

Moreover, while the study primarily focuses on employees, its implications extend beyond this group. Managers and stakeholders involved in change implementation can benefit from the insights gleaned, fostering smoother transitions and improved outcomes across the organisation.

This article is a summary of the student’s dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of a Master of Science degree in Strategic Management & Marketing. The article is not officially endorsed by the University of Malta. The opinions expressed therein are solely those of the respective alumni and do not reflect those of the University of Malta.

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