Contemplating Workplace Change: Evolving Individual Thought Processes and Emergent Story Lines


Published: 15May2015

Authors: Klag, M., Jansen, K. J and Lee, M. D.

Publication: The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science


Drawing on topical life histories of physicians in a particularly volatile public health sector environment, we build theory around the contemplation of workplace change. Overall, our study provides evidence as to why single or multiple independent factors, such as pay or job structure, may fail to predict or explain individual decisions to stay in or change workplaces. Instead, the contemplation process we argue is a complex, evolutionary, and context-dependent one that requires individualized interventions. Our findings reveal the prevalence of episodic context-self fit assessments prompted by triggering stimuli, two mechanisms by which thought processes evolved (reinforcement and recalibration), and four characteristic story lines that explain why the thought processes manifested as they did (exploring opportunities, solving problems, reconciling incongruence, and escaping situations). Based on our findings, we encourage practitioners to regularly engage in story-listening and dialogic conversations to better understand, and potentially affect the evolving socially constructed realities of staff members.

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