Author(s), Title and Publication

Helpap, S. & Bekmeier-Feuerhahn, S. (2016). Employees’ emotions in change: advancing the sensemaking approach. Journal of Organizational Change Management, DOI: 10.1108/JOCM-05-2016-0088


The introduction of change can cause a variety of different emotional reactions among affected employees. Some employees might feel anxious, frightened or frustrated, whereas others feel hopeful and pleasant. To better understand employees’ emotional reactions to change, the authors combine the model of enacted sensemaking with insights from the Affect Infusion Model (AIM). Integrating emotion and cognition, AIM is defined as a comprehensive model of the judgment processes of individuals that describes the circumstances under which affective reactions influence cognitive processing. The authors propose that change recipients’ emotions will influence their change commitment (i.e., believing in the value of the change initiative), change efficacy (i.e., the ability to master the challenge during the change initiative), and change expectations (i.e., expectations of the change outcome). Positive emotions are more likely to facilitate change initiatives. Increased change commitment, change efficacy, and positive change expectations are associated with less change resistance intention.

To test the model, the authors surveyed 261 employees recruited via institutions and universities that provide programs for professional development. Results suggested that the emotional responses of employees are significantly related to change commitment, change efficacy, and expectations involved in an organizational change. In addition, emotions indirectly affect the level of intentional resistance behavior through change commitment and efficacy. The authors’ study also revealed that employee change commitment and change efficacy are negatively related to resistance intention. Conversely, no significant statistical relationship was found between expectation and intentional resistance.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should 1) recognize the impact of employees’ affective reactions on their cognitive processing and make plans accordingly, 2) understand employee resistance intentions and mitigate such resistance by enhancing employee change commitment and change efficacy, and 3) focus on promoting positive emotions among employees as they will facilitate change initiatives.

Location of Article

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