Sparr, Jennifer L.
Giving and Making Sense About Change : The Back and Forth Between Leaders and Employees
2018-02, Kraft, Anna, Sparr, Jennifer L., Peus, Claudia
Leader sensegiving—the attempt to affect employees’ sensemaking—is a crucial leadership activity during organizational change. Yet, it is unclear how employee sensemaking and leader sensegiving vary across different change phases: Although addressing employee needs is key for successful sensegiving, current literature remains vague about how leaders account for different employee needs over the course of a change process.
Data were obtained from an interview study with organizational members who underwent episodic change. To integrate both perspectives, interviews were conducted with leaders (n = 26) and employees (n = 29). Data were analyzed using template analysis.
Our analysis revealed and confirmed different sensemaking needs and respective sensegiving foci in each change phase. During exploration, leaders respond to employees’ need for reassurance with receptive sensegiving. During preparation, leaders show participative sensegiving to answer employees’ need for orientation. During implementation, leaders’ compensating sensegiving responds to employees’ need for balance. During evaluation, leaders’ evaluative sensegiving accounts for employees’ need for acknowledgment. Each sensegiving mode is associated with a specific set of discursive and symbolic strategies in each phase.
This study provides a systematic framework on how leaders can respond successfully to employee sensemaking needs in each change phase using different discursive and symbolic sensegiving strategies.
The study enhances our understanding of development in sensemaking and sensegiving by outlining the specific interlocking between both processes within the different change phases. Furthermore, it outlines how the relevant sensegiving modes can be obtained through particular symbolic and discursive strategies.