Potosky, D., & Azan, W. (2022). Leadership behaviors and human agency in the valley of despair: A meta-framework for organizational change implementation. Human Resource Management Review, 100927.

For organizational leaders, implementing change in a workplace meansinfluencing employees to do something new or behave differently. Foremployees, implementing a change at work requires detaching from familiarroutines and social systems, learning and practicing the change, andimagining a future in which the change is valued by the organization. As theyapply their agency to implement change, employees may experience loss,uncertainty, and frustration that manifests as despair, which can jeopardizethe change process and its outcomes. We assemble a meta-theoretical frameworkusing human agency theory, the Valley of Despair model of organizationalchange, and Full-Range Leadership Theory to explore ways that leaders’behaviors relate to employees’ agentic orientations and behaviors during theimplementation phase of the organizational change process. Taking bothorganizational change leaders’ and employees’ perspectives into account, thetheory derived from our meta-framework argues that leaders’ behaviors canshape employees’ agency and their behaviors during the implementation stageof change in two important ways: 1) certain leader behaviors are likely toprime agentic orientations that facilitate changing, and 2) certain leaderbehaviors may help to mitigate employees’ despair, enabling the firm toderive value from employees’ change implementation behaviors. • Human agencyincludes habitual iteration oriented toward the past, practical evaluation inthe present, and imaginative future projection. • A leader’s behaviorsdifferentially relate to employees’ dominant agentic orientation in thechordal triad of human agency. • When implementing change, employees mayexperience despair that reflects loss, frustration, uncertainty, anddisruptions to social systems. • Despair may moderate the relationshipbetween employees’ implementation behaviors and the value to be derived fromthe change. • Transactional and transformational leadership behaviors canmitigate the depth and duration of employees’ implementation despair.