Exploring the Impact of Leadership Communication on Change Managers’ Perception of Crisis-Driven Change at U.S.-Based Fortune 100 Financial Service Companies

Honors

Franklin University Dissertation Excellence Award - Winner (Fall 2023)

Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership (EdD)

Committee Chair

Yuerong Sweetland

Committee Member

Jeffrey Ferezan

Committee Member

Patrick Bennett

Abstract

Change is difficult. A process inherently challenging and uniquely individual, change involves transitioning individuals from a state of comfort and normalcy to an uncomfortable and stressful period of transition, ultimately leading to a new, often unfamiliar future state. This difficulty is exacerbated during crises when clarity and trust become paramount. This study employs a descriptive phenomenological approach to examine the lived experiences of change management employees navigating change within organizations. Four overarching themes emerged from the analysis. First, inconsistent messaging from different management levels engendered confusion and uncertainty. Second, the perceived lack of transparency and honesty in leadership communications resulted in mistrust, misinformation, and erosion of leadership credibility. Third, regardless of the content of the communication, the chosen channel and its frequency emerged as key indicators shaping participant perceptions. Finally, the study revealed that how leadership conveyed messages and treated employees in terms of perceived honesty, responsiveness, and prioritization strongly reinforced participants' existing crisis-related perceptions. Additional findings were also examined, including how the participants reported distinct perspectives on leadership, communication, and organizational performance during crises. In response to the findings, the author introduces a unified crisis communications model to optimize leadership communication strategies and employee experiences during crisis events. This model integrates key elements derived from the study, emphasizing consistency, transparency, and strategic use of communication channels. By addressing the identified challenges and leveraging the model, organizations may enhance their ability to navigate change during crises, fostering resilience and sustaining stakeholder trust.

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