Employees' perceptions of a change in organizational social context following a change in leadership

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Weaver, Jeannie Johnson

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The purpose of this study was to examine employees’ perceptions of a change in organizational social context following a change in leadership. The concept of social context was defined as an integration of the concepts of organizational climate and organizational culture. The research paradigm was qualitative and the methodology was the study of a single case – a public sector organization. Leadership changes more frequently in public sector organizations than in the private sector and the impact of this turnover at the top is usually mitigated by the on-going service of career public sector managers who provide linkages from one leader to the next. In this instance, the links deteriorated and employees’ perceptions of the climate and culture of the organization declined. The author, an employee of the study organization, acknowledged the impact of her role as participant-observer on the collection and analysis of data. Both qualitative and quantitative data were gathered and analyzed for this study. Qualitative data were taken from interviews with agency executives and the author’s field notes. Quantitative data were drawn from the four iterations of the Survey of Organizational Excellence (SOE) that were conducted during the timeframe of the study. Trends in four work place dimensions measured by the SOE were examined: Organizational Features, Work Group, Information and Personal. Trends occurring in the subject organization over the eight-year timeframe of the study were compared to trends in the same work place dimensions in benchmark agencies. Implications for the study were that public sector organizations could change, and that politically appointed leaders could have a significant impact in spite of the brevity of their appointments. And these changes could be drastic enough and occur rapidly enough to impact the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. Because the size and scope of local government has continued growing and resources shrinking, political appointees to public sector organizations should be chosen for their expertise as well as their political alignment.