Author(s), Title and Publication

Tucker, D. A., Yeow, P., & Viki, G. T. (2013). Communicating during organizational change using social accounts: The importance of ideological accounts. Management Communication Quarterly, 27(2), 184-209.


This study explored how organizations undergoing change explain change-related decision to their employees, and the impacts of different communication methods on employees’ trust in organizational management. Three types of social accounts or explanations of decisions made were analyzed: 1) causal accounts, which identify the internal and external causes for change; 2) ideological accounts, which address why managers want a change and the values of the change; and 3) referential accounts, with which an organization makes its decisions look fair by comparing its change (e.g., a decision to make 300 employees redundant) with similar changes in other organizations (e.g., a decision to make 900 employees redundant).

The authors surveyed 172 front-line and lower-level managers from two organizations in Germany that had recently undergone a significant organizational change to improve production system. The survey measured social account types (i.e., causal, ideological, and referential accounts), social account success (whether the participants understood the reasons for a change from the decision makers’ point of view), and trust in management (e.g., whether management does an efficient job, whether management can be trusted to make sensitive decisions for the organization’s future, and so forth.).

Results showed that ideological accounts were most effective in communicating an organizational change, because when an organization used ideological accounts, its employees were more likely to understand the change decision from the organization’s point of view, and had greater trust in the management of the organization. In addition, the study found that providing causal accounts was also helpful in gaining employees’ understanding of the change, but providing referential accounts reduced employees’ understanding of the change. Neither causal nor referential accounts were related to trust in management.

Implications for Practice

To communicate organizational changes to employees, managers may want to explain internal or external factors that are driving decision making, and stress the values and goals of the changes, to gain employees’ understanding. More importantly, stressing the values of change could also improve employees’ trust in their managers. Making reference to similar changes in other organizations may not be effective.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article) (full-article)



Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply