Resistance to change, work engagement and psychological capital of academics in an open distance learning work environment

Johanna C. Diedericks, Frans V. N. Cilliers, Adele Bezuidenhout

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    Orientation: Becoming globally competitive in developing economies and when change is the rule rather than the exception, organisations increasingly require specific skills and demand much more from employees. Research in positive work and organisational behaviour indicates that psychological capital (PsyCap) and work engagement (WE), being psychological capacities and human resource strengths, can be enhanced and if effectively managed, result in flourishing and well-being in the workplace. The phenomenon of resistance to change (RTC) is a key barrier to positive organisational change and organisations will be confronted with enormous change and challenges in future.

    Research purpose: To investigate the interrelationships between RTC, PsyCap and WE of open distance learning (ODL) academics in a changing work environment.

    Motivation for the study: More research is needed regarding the application of positive work and organisational psychological functioning of ODL academics. Universities can use the study results to develop strategies leading to positive organisations which can, despite change, enable higher educational institutions (HEI’s) and individual employees to flourish through positive well-being.

    Research design, approach and method: A quantitative survey approach was followed using a self-administered questionnaire and a probability sample of 208 (N=208) academics were included. The measuring instruments comprised the Resistance to Change Scale, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) and the Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PCQ-24). Structural equation modelling was performed.

    Main findings: Confirmatory- and exploratory factor analysis (CFA and EFA) indicated a two-construct measurement model for WE, a four-construct measurement model for PsyCap and a four-construct measurement model for RTC. A meaningful positive relationship between the psychological constructs of PsyCap and WE, and a meaningful negative relationship between the psychodynamic construct RTC, and the psychological constructs of PsyCap and WE was confirmed. Further to this, structural equation modelling (SEM) indicated an adequate fit of the conceptual structural model.

    Practical implications: Results suggest that organisations should seek to reduce RTC. Organisations also need to acknowledge the important role of positive psychological behaviour in a positive organisation and the contribution thereof to individual flourishing and well-being in a changing work environment.

    Contribution/value-add: The study results should provide new insights into the positive work and organisational functioning of academics in a changing ODL work environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSA Journal of Human Resource Management
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2019


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