I was thinking about outsourcing change management and the observation that those being outsourced often speak with respect about the boss delivering the message whilst being very hostile to the organisation actually forcing through the reorganisation. It has often happened to me when talking to people being outsourced that some managers or leaders are able to give bad news when it is necessary whilst still maintaining a good relation with their staff.
From a justice perspective, followers, or in this case the ones on the ‘receiving end’ of the outsourcing change, will judge the leadership exercised as to the degree which it is fair. That is leaders can motivate followers by following ‘fair procedures’ and followers can as a result become more supportive of the direction or goals being proposed and exercise good organisational citizenship – even when the goal being proposed is adversely affecting them.
This can be sharply contrasted if you think of a more distributive type of process where the person affected by the change only sees the instrumental issues – how the change is materially affecting them (loss of income or job for example). What this forces us to consider is how people apply different yardsticks when looking at an organisation’s position and how this can inform us why a person could simultaneously ‘respect’ the person who is communicating the bad news whilst keeping this distinct from poor justice perceived at an organisational level – or from another person or department elsewhere. I.e. is it seen as fair what the company is proposing as articulated by the manager compared to the way it is actually carried out at a company level. For example an outsource in order to gain cost advantages over an incumbent workforce would I suspect be judged adversely in a distributive justice sense, whereas a correct and fair application of the selection of the people affected by the outsource, as done by the manager, could be seen as procedurally fair if done with integrity – you would probably hear things like ‘he’s only doing his job’ or ‘he has no say in the matter’ but never the less ‘he’s a good chap.’
You could also take another view more directly related to identity and leadership: followers internalise the leaders perspective and construct an identity congruence to the leaders (buy in to the vision) and the issues around Identity in terms of the organisation (letting go and the processes involved in breaking the psychological contract) and constructing a new identity with the new organisation in outsourcing or ‘downsizing’. These types of processes also affect those left behind – i.e. be distanced from the organisation as a consequence of a poor outsource process. These sorts of processes could also help us ‘explain’ a differential response to the different players within an organisation (respect the manager but despise the organisation) – this is seen a lot in downsizing or outsourcing organisations people leave and organisation with a bitter taste in the mouth. It should not be forgotten that poorly outsourced people are probably lost as customers for the rest of their lives!
What this means is that the response of workers to an outsource can be greatly affected by the way messages and procedures are actually executed. A fair and equitable approach delivered by a well trained and respected manager can actually help in reducing resistance to change – in effect stopping causes of resistance at source.