This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Dr. James Ndone examined how negative employee-organization relationships impacted an organization’s internal reputation and its employees’ negative emotions as well as unsupportive behavior during a crisis. Negative employee-organization relationships (NEOR) were manifested by distrust, dissatisfaction, control dominance (how an organization intentionally neglected and controlled employees during decision making), and dissolution (employees’ willingness to break their relationship with an organization).

Furthermore, the researcher investigated how an organization’s crisis responses, such as denial (e.g., finding a scapegoat or attacking the accuser) versus rebuilding (e.g., offering apology and compensation), may change the effect of NEOR during a crisis. Lastly, the research explores how the timing of the organization’s crisis responses, thunder (responding after crisis news coverage) versus stealing thunder (self-disclosing crisis information before news coverage), may also alter the impact of NEOR.

An online experiment of 465 full-time employees working in the phone manufacturing industry in the United States was conducted in March 2021.

Key findings include:

1.) NEOR negatively impacted internal reputation and increased the likelihood of employees engaging in unsupportive behavior during a crisis.
— The effects of NEOR mentioned above did not change when the organization chose different timing strategies of responding to the crisis.
2.) Rebuilding crisis responses lessened the impact of NEOR on employees’ unsupportive behavior.
3.) NEOR intensified employees’ anger and anxiety during the crisis, which in turn affected the organization’s internal reputation negatively.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should cultivate positive relationships and avoid negative relationships with their employees as this may help the organization weather a crisis. When a crisis occurs, public relations practitioners should help the organization monitor employees’ emotions and especially try to minimize their anxiety and anger. Additionally, organizations can consider adopting rebuilding strategies to respond to a crisis when appropriate, which will help decrease employees’ unsupportive behaviors.

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