How do Employees Adapt to Organizational Change? The Role of Meaning-making and Work Engagement

Machteld van den Heuvel, Evangelia Demerouti, Arnold B Bakker, Jørn Hetland, Wilmar B Schaufeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This multi-wave, multi-source study focuses on the benefits of work engagement for employee adaptation to organizational change. The change entailed the implementation of a flexible office design in an engineering firm, which caused radical change for employees. Building on conservation of resources (COR) theory and change transition models, we predict that work engagement trajectories during change are crucial for successful adaptation. The hypothesized process was that initial employee meaning-making will facilitate work engagement, which, in turn, predicts supervisor-rated adaptive performance (i.e. adaptive work-role performance and extra-role performance) via attitude-to-change. Attitude-to-change was modeled as reciprocally related to work engagement at different points in time. Weekly questionnaires were completed by 71 employees during the first five weeks of the change (296 observations). Latent growth trajectories using weekly engagement measures showed no overall growth, but did show significant variance around the slope of work engagement. Meaning-making and attitude-to-change at the onset were positively related to initial levels, but not to growth of work engagement. Meaning-making was indirectly related to short-term attitude-to-change via work engagement. Short-term attitude-to-change was predictive of supervisor-rated adaptive performance and long-term attitude-to-change. Finally, work engagement (slope) predicted long-term attitude-to-change and supervisor-rated extra-role performance via short-term attitude-to-change. Taken together, the study contributes to knowledge about micro-level transition processes of employee adaptation and the benefits of work engagement during change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalThe Spanish Journal of Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2020


  • adaptive performance
  • change adaptation
  • meaning-making
  • organizational change
  • work engagement


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