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Surviving downsizing: Navigating stress, tensions, and contradictions

Pascale Caidor

Article ID: 1660
Vol 8, Issue 3, 2023, Article identifier:

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This study explored the intricate nuances of the tensions and dualities that underlie the stress experienced by survivors of a downsizing process, encompassing the embodied dimensions of these tensions. Data was analyzed from a large public organization located in Canada, providing empirical evidence of the various tensions experienced by individuals while responding to the changes brought about by downsizing. It was suggested that these tensions could be understood as discursive strategies employed by members to navigate the stress and uncertainty of the process. To examine these accounts more closely, communication ventriloquial approach was utilized, offering a robust framework and analytical method that proved instrumental in dissecting the responses of organizational members as they confronted the multifaceted challenges stemming from the downsizing process. This research presented a tension-centered perspective of change, challenging traditional approaches to change. This approach enabled a deeper understanding of individuals’ communicative strategies and discourses during this period. By tracking figures, and tensions, the analysis shed light on preoccupations constituting the downsizing process. The analysis revealed three main tensions during the change process: supportiveness vs. equity, effectiveness vs. authority, and accountability vs. collegiality. It has been proposed that recognizing the communicative construction of these tensions is pivotal in effectively addressing issues of change and employees’ concerns throughout this process. The current literature did not explain how employees voiced their concerns or how these preoccupations interacted with one another to create multiple tensions. The findings suggested that employees’ preoccupations and concerns provided a deeper and more global picture of their experiences during the organizational change process, offering a better understanding of the tensions that were also part of the change process.


organizational change; discourse; tensions; figures; ventriloquism

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