An Exploration of Survivors’ Experience of Organizational Downsizing: A Sensemaking Perspective

Berberich, Joerg (2016) An Exploration of Survivors’ Experience of Organizational Downsizing: A Sensemaking Perspective. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

PhD thesis Joerg Berberich_Final submission_Redacted for signature only.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License All Rights Reserved.

Download (2MB) | Preview


This research explores the experiences of downsizing survivors from the UK and from Germany and Switzerland. It makes a unique contribution to organizational studies theory by applying the concept of sensemaking from Weick (1995) as a theoretical lens for the study of survivors’ experiences. Since this concept was never previously operationalized in this way, this research adds value to the theoretical debate about the sensemaking processes of organizational members in times of change. This work also contributes to the body of knowledge in this field by proposing a theoretical model about survivors’ sensemaking of organizational downsizing. Unlike previous research that mainly addressed causes and effects of organizational downsizing (e.g. Brockner, 1988), the present model depicts survivors’ sensemaking as an iterative process and thereby provides a more holistic view and a new dimension about how survivors respond to the situation post-downsizing. Further theoretical contributions relate to the long-term effects of downsizing on survivors. As it was found that survivors’ attitudes were still negatively affected up to 18 months post-downsizing, this study provides more evidence that the effects of downsizing are not only felt in the short term but are long-lasting. Moreover, this research revealed that repeated exposure to downsizing led to an accumulation of stress and thereby impacted survivors’ well-being over time. Thus, it contradicts several studies, mainly from North America (e.g. Chreim, 2006), which had indicated that surviving repeated waves of downsizing has a favourable effect on survivors and makes them more resilient over time. The present study also has implications for business practices with its recommendation that organizations need to have a clear concept in place to facilitate survivors’ change processes, as well as with its suggestion that organizations provide their line managers with more training opportunities with regard to how downsizing survivors should be supported.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Downsizing, survivors; Restructuring, survivors; United Kingdom; Switzerland; Germany
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5001 Business > HF5549 Personnel management. Employment management
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Business, Computing and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2016 15:41
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 08:16

University Staff: Request a correction | Repository Editors: Update this record

University Of Gloucestershire

Bookmark and Share

Find Us On Social Media:

Social Media Icons Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Pinterest Linkedin

Other University Web Sites

University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.