Involvement and Participation in Organizational Change

Involvement and participation are perhaps the most powerful techniques management can use to gain acceptance of change. Commitment to carry out these decisions is intensified. Personal satisfaction derived from the job is increased. The extent of personal involvement can range from merely being informed, to discussing problems and voicing opinions and feelings to actually making and implementing decision.

At the most superficial level, some participation occurs when one is designated to receive information either written via distribution lists or in face-to-face briefings. At a slightly more intensive level, participation can be gained through individual or group consultations. This process is no more than an extension of the face-to-face discussion. In the process of soliciting inputs, the managers carry this approach to step further. Those present are asked to make suggestions about how the change might be accomplished. Alternately a problem might be assigned to a group for analysis and recommended actions.

Employee take pride in and derive satisfaction that their suggestions or recommendations are being consulted. These feelings are intensified when their inputs are actually adopted or acted upon. But if inputs are rejected, then those who offered them must be made to understand the reasons for it. When managers are effective in explaining why certain inputs were rejected, consultation and solicitation can still be productive. There are three reasons. First, the very fact that employees have opportunities both to express themselves and to be given serious attention can, in it self, be beneficial to attitude and morale. Second, by understanding why a suggestion was not acceptable, an employee may reach a better understanding of the change. Third, an employee may be encouraged to offer better suggestions in the future.

A basic requirement for participation is that the people involved want to participate. A second prerequisite for successful participation is that the manager or superior must feel reasonably secure in his or her position and role. When managers can bring themselves to risk their status in the eyes of the subordinates by involving them in some form of participation, they may find the consequences startling. When employees are permitted or encouraged to participate, their esteem for their managers often tend to increase rather than decrease. The third prerequisite for participation is the absence of commitment by a manager to any single course of action. He must be open-minded to possibilities or alternative approaches. If he is convinced from the outset that his method is the best and the only means of accomplishing the change, he would not involve others and such an attempt would soon be perceived as meaningless and essentially dishonest. The fourth condition necessary for effective participation is the manager’s willingness to give credit and recognition openly to all worthwhile contributions made by others. It’s the realization of the change. Also, if impracticable ideas are offered, the manager must ensure that the contribution receives full explanations about reasons for rejections. The fifth condition is the employee’s willingness to voice their comments and to offer suggestions once they have been encouraged to do so. Participation will not work with people who are passive and apathetic. When all these conditions conducive the use of participation in managing a change can yield at least eight significant benefits :

  1. Participation helps to develop a better and more complete understanding of the change, its causes and its probable consequences.
  2. Participation is a powerful way to unfreeze fixed attitude, stereotypes or cultural beliefs which are held either by management or by the workforce, and which create a hurdle to with the accomplish the change. Through participation, these beliefs can be re-examined more objectively.
  3. Participation helps to increase employee’s confidence in management’s intentions and objectives.
  4. Often, as a consequence of participation, first hand ideas are contributed which results in better methods of introducing and implementing change.
  5. Through participation, people involve themselves in the change. They become more committed to the decision in which then took part.
  6. Participation sometimes serves to present poorly-conceived changes form being made.
  7. Through participation, staff specialists tend to broaden their outlook.
  8. Through participation, employees at every organizational level gain a broader perspective and develop their capabilities.

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