Making sense of organisational change failure: An identity lens

Georgia J. Hay, Sharon K. Parker, Aleksandra Luksyte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates how employees craft narratives of organisational change failure through the lens of their work identity. We analysed change recipients’ retrospective sensemaking accounts of an organisational re-structuring in a university, finding these accounts to be filled with widely varying descriptions of failure – of errors, dysfunction, and loss. We explored how employees’ organisational, professional, and work-group identities were intertwined with, and fundamentally challenged by, their sensemaking about the change and its failure. Our inductive analysis revealed four distinct narrative trajectories – Identity Loss, Identity Revision, Identity Affirmation, and Identity Resilience – each characterised by distinct cognitive, affective, and behavioural patterns. We discuss the unique contributions that this study makes to the literatures on organisational change failure, sensemaking, and identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-207
Number of pages28
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Early online date27 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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