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Front-Line Management during Radical Organisational Change: Social Exchange and Paradox Interpretations

Published: 17 January 2021
 by  MDPI AG
Sustainability , Volume 13; doi:10.3390/su13020893

Abstract: External shocks have severely affected the aviation sector with detrimental impacts on airport service employees. Service-sector organizations tend to implement radical organizational change to survive and front-line managers face often-opposing demands. This study aims to shed light on how front-line managers cope by utilizing social exchange-based strategies during radical organizational change. This study uses an exploratory qualitative design and thematically analyses data obtained from 40 semi-structured interviews with senior managers, front-line managers and employees working for an airline services provider operating in a major international airport in Australia. The study finds that front-line managers employ several social exchange approaches to overcome the paradoxical challenge of facilitating change while maintaining current operations. We find evidence of four approaches that the front-line managers utilize that are based on social exchange: (1) building relationships with clients’ representatives; (2) utilizing relationships with experienced employees to facilitate radical organizational change practices; (3) rewarding employees in exchange for helping to manage personnel shortages; and (4) motivating employees by various morale-enhancing techniques. The study contributes to organizational sustainability and change research by developing a deeper understanding of the importance of social exchange in facilitating the work of front-line managers in the airport services sector.
Keywords: paradox theory / external shocks / organizational sustainability and change / social exchange theory / airport services / front-line managers

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