Facilitating Individual Adaptation of Employees


The constant changes in the business environment and in the economic situation require the organizations to reassess their positions and consider organizational transition. Organizational transition can be defined as “an event that results in a change in assumptions about oneself and the world and thus requires a corresponding change in one’s expectations, behaviors, and relationships” (Marks). The aims of such transitions might vary, although usually they revolve around improving the process of reaching particular objectives, overcoming obstacles or adapting to organizational changes and accelerating all of the aforementioned.

Organizational changes in that matter can be considered such events as mergers, acquisitions, or restructuring. In that regard, the management of organizational transition can be a two-fold issue, where on the one hand there are the changes on the organizational level downsizing, restructuring and etc, and there is the individual change, which accordingly implies adaptations of the employees, such as meeting new business models, coping with work done with the new resources, and the revision of the work expectations (Marks, 2003, p. 87). The inevitability of organizational transitions occurring through the company’s life time, along with the focus of the top executive management on the adaptation to the organizational change, and the resistance of the middle to lower rank employees to the new organizational order, put the issue of individual adaptation to organizational transition as a problem that should be addressed.

Problem Statement

Taking the perspective of the individual adaptation as the main analyzed pattern, the problem that should be addressed is the role of HR management in facilitating the individual adaptation of the employees. Taking the examples of such organizational changes such as internal restructuring and acquisitions, the importance of assigning the role of HR management can be seen through the interventions that should be made to “retain employees and keep them attentive to business results during the period” and help employees “feel confident in and, to the extent possible, in control of their ability to deal with the tremendous sense of loss, other conditions of organizational death, and their personal transition” (Marks & Vansteenkiste, 2008, p. 810).

The contribution of researching the role of HR management in managing the individual adaptation in organizational transition can be seen in avoiding the consequences of mismanaged or undermanaged transitions. In that regard, such consequences are documented in the literature, where such consequences include trust falls, the deterioration of communication within the company, and an increase in managerial rigidity (Marks & Vansteenkiste, 2008).

In terms of employees, the consequences might include inability to prioritize the work, avoid risks, and dysfunctions in team work. (Marks & Vansteenkiste, 2008) Additionally, the consequences of mismanaged transition can be measured in financial terms, which can be considered as the main indicator in organizations, where “[e]xpenses ranging from increased health care claims to unanticipated training expenditures spike following a combination” (Marks & Vansteenkiste, 2008, p. 811).

Thus, the relation intended to measure can be formulated into a question that can be stated as “What interventions are the most effective in minimizing the consequences of mismanaged organizational transition?” Considering the effectiveness of the interventions as a measurable entity, constructed based on several parameters, the interventions can be categorized based on literature, case studies and data collected through surveys.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this study is to understand employees’ perception of a successful adaptation, and to investigate the relation between the factors associated with such adaptation and the interventions made by the HR management. The perception of the employees will be established through a series of interviews with the employees in selected companies, who continued working in their position after a transition took place, as a result of a merger or an acquisition. The interview will be analyzed and categorized based on the framework established in Marks (2007), which consists of such elements as empathy, engagement, energy, and enforcement (Marks, 2007).

The categorization of the factors on such criteria is important because of the necessity to relate the factors assigned by the participants to an established theoretical framework. Accordingly, in the second part of the study, the relation between the outlined factors and the HR interventions will be examined through a conducted questionnaire, in order to study the usage of interventions, their importance to the HR department, and the perception of the effectiveness. The effectiveness and the importance will be based on two scales implemented in the questionnaire, the importance scale and the rating scale. The studied variables gathered through the interviews or examined through the questionnaire imply that the two groups of participants, i.e. the employees and the HR management responsible for the transition period, are from the different companies.


The outlined purpose statement combines the exploratory and the descriptive design, and accordingly uses a mixed method approach to analyze the data. Such choice can be explained in that, the reliance on predetermined theory and variables for measurement might impose a bias in the methods used. On the other hand the perception of the employees will allow exploring the practical factors associated with a successful transition. Additionally, such a purpose statement will test Marks’ framework, in terms of its applicability to the interventions, if possible. Marks in his work specifically acknowledged the difficulty to test his outlined elements for facilitating adaptation, due to the difficulty to establish the exact start of the period of transition. In that regard, taking the conditions outlined in the purpose statement, it could be added that the interviews will be conducted in a period of six months after the merger and the acquisition.

The justification of the purpose statement can be seen in that, the work will contribute to the existing knowledge of the employees’ transition and adaptation management, and accordingly will provide an insight on the disparities that might exist, between the perceptions of the employees and the HR management, on the methods and the interventions as well as on the assessment of their success and importance. In that regard, the existing literature outlines the methods used in avoiding the consequences of mismanaged transition (Marks & Vansteenkiste, 2008), rather than examines the successful ones in retrospective. Thus, it can be assumed that such study might be beneficial in the practical aspect of the employees’ adaptation process. Among the limitations of the study’s purpose, the elimination of the employees, who did not manage through the transition, assuming if there were any, can be considered as the most important. However, it can be predicted that the interviews with such employees might threaten the validity of the study and the bias will be hard to avoid.


Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design : choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Marks, M. L. (2003). Charging back up the hill : workplace recovery after mergers, acquisitions, and downsizing. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Marks, M. L. (2007). A framework for facilitating adaptation to organizational transition. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 20(5), 721-739.

Marks, M. L., & Vansteenkiste, R. (2008). Preparing for organizational death: Proactive HR engagement in an organizational transition. Human Resource Management, 47(4), 809.

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