Coping with change: An analysis of the subjective meaning of enforced workplace rationalisation within rural New South Wales' public health agencies

Author: Patricia Ann Thornberry

Thornberry, Patricia Ann, 2013 Coping with change: An analysis of the subjective meaning of enforced workplace rationalisation within rural New South Wales' public health agencies, Flinders University, School of Medicine

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This is a study of the impact of enforced change upon staff working in a range of positions within rural area health services in New South Wales, Australia between 2004 and 2007. The thesis explores the emotional impact of the changes for staff from their perspective and that of their broader communities. The enforced changes occurred following a series of reviews of New South Wales Department of Health conducted over a twenty four month period commencing in 2002. The four chapters that present the data from the interviewed participants and questionnaire respondents provide detailed evidence of the impact of the change and the emotional trauma experienced by participants. This trauma is fundamentally the result of poor communication processes that permeates all aspects of enforced workplace change. Kemper's Power Status Theory of Emotions is used to explain how emotional trauma affects the power and status of employees within the workplace and their broader social and environmental context including relationships with family and peers. The study was conducted using a sequential mixed method design (Qual Quan) (Creswell, 2003, p.213) also known as a sequential exploratory design (Creswell, 2007) using individual, semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire to gather the data. A critical position was employed throughout the data analysis (Grbich, 2007). The data collected throughout the interview phase was analysed drawing on Brown and Gilligan's (1992) Voice Centred Relational Method (VCRM) of data analysis. The use of a 'Voice Centred' data analysis method for this research is different from many other research analysis methods and was specifically chosen for this study as it allowed me to immerse myself in the conversations I had with each participant so I could listen to, and hear the way in which they told their story from a range of perspectives. This method of data analysis coupled with the use of poetry, nostalgic reminiscence, and Theodore Kemper's Power-Status Theory of Emotions allowed me to understand the emotional response of those involved in enforced organisational change. This novel analytical approach enabled me to use a range of strategies to examine and probe the data that described the way people responded to enforced change in the workplace and to understand why the changes had a significant impact on their broader social and community networks.

Keywords: workplace change,emotions,communication

Subject: Health Sciences thesis, Medicine thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2013
School: School of Medicine
Supervisor: Assoc Professor eileen Willis Professor Jenenne Greenhill Dr Linda Sweet