Social Science & Organizational Change

by | Jan 11, 2022 | New Business, Research Operations, Social Marketing | 0 comments

Social Science Helps with Organizational Change

When an organization undergoes a change, it can be a difficult time for employees. Change can mean new policies, new procedures, and sometimes even new management. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible for employees, organizations often turn to social science and organizational change management processes for help. This research provides insights into how people process change and what strategies can be used to help them adapt. By using social science research in your organizational change initiatives, you can increase the chances of a successful transformation.

Employees’ Response to Change

Employees often have a stake in the organizational change being put into place. Social scientists can help managers understand how employees feel about proposed changes and work with them to create a more positive outcome.

Employees’ reactions to changes are strongly influenced by what they think the cause is. In addition to exploring employees’ reactions to change, social science research can also look at employees’ feelings of control over the change, and their degree of organizational identification. This information can be used to help managers create a more positive outcome for employees during organizational change.

Source: Sara J Gollob, “Social Science Helps With Organizational Change,” excerpted from What Every Supervisor Should Know, 3rd Edition

Organizations and Social Science

Social Science is applied across disciplinary areas in real-world uses. Social scientists are people who use scientific methods to formulate practical applications that aid organizational change and organizational development. Social science research has shown that employee reactions to changes depend in part on what causes of the change they perceive, their feelings of control over the change, and their level of organizational identification.

The study of such things is called organizational psychology. This is the study of organizational behavior and organizational performance and includes training, leadership, motivation, communication, group dynamics, organizational development and change, productivity tools, human resource management practices, and organizational culture.

During World War II when there was a shortage of able-bodied men for active duty army service, there were efforts made to employ women as an experimental test group so they could take over factory positions doing tasks usually done by men. During this time period, it became clear that there were also psychological implications for working conditions, which led to the establishment of organizational psychology as a sub-field within organizational behavior, according to organizational behavior professors at the University of Texas at Austin.

Applying Research

Managers can use social science research in different ways when trying to positively influence organizational change with lower-level workers—such as factory or service industry employees. This includes explaining the need for organizational changes before they are implemented; encouraging natural leaders within workgroups; involving employees in the selection process for new supervisory positions; making sure that regular communication occurs during organizational change; and breaking organizational changes down into smaller, more manageable parts.

Managers can use organizational change research to predict ways in which organizational change might affect employees—including the level of organizational conflict that might result after organizational changes are implemented. This research has also helped managers identify steps they can take to help minimize employee resistance, which is often an obstacle to organizational success.

For example, some organizations using social science research on work behaviors found high levels of withdrawal behavior among workers after implementing organizational changes. When this happens, managers need to strengthen their motivation and commitment to the organization’s goals while persuading employees that there are benefits for them in following organizational guidelines even if they are uncertain of what results will occur from these actions.

The organizational change that takes place within an organizational unit or company can pose a threat to employees. One of the primary reasons organizational changes are met with resistance is because someone’s position might be eliminated by the organizational change. The social science research on organizational change has helped managers develop effective ways to minimize employee resistance and increase their commitment, including giving them input in the decision-making process and providing them with information before organizational changes take place. Social science research is also helpful for managers when they need to predict how organizational change will affect workers or when they need help identifying steps they can take that will help them influence lower-level employees during organizational change.

Tips for organizational change


Social scientists may examine the situation and provide recommendations for further action (see other uses of Social Science –  Program Evaluation). People from a variety of backgrounds may be in need of social science services, including human resources, program management, and department chairpersons.

“Organizational Change.” Social Scientists can evaluate the situation and help determine the next steps, best steps, and lessons learned., – N.p., n.d. Web. 08

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