With the slump of the world economy in the late 1980's and the bursting of the asset price bubble, many highly-geared corporations were forced into retrenching labour, shelving investment plans, slashing inventories and winding back gearing levels. Organisational restructure became the key focus. The airline industry, hard-hit by the recession and coming off a low capitalisation base, was forced into organisational change. With the announcement of the merger of Qantas and Australian Airlines, an organisational change process was commenced that would have a substantial impact on the employees of both companies.
This present study was designed to examine and test the utility of a model that outlines a set of predictions of personal adaptation to organisational change. Specifically, the relations among employees' coping resources (generalised control beliefs, and social support), their appraisals of the merger (appraised stress, self-efficacy, and control beliefs), the coping responses (problem- and emotion- focused coping) used to deal with the event, levels of employee adjustment (psychological well-being and job satisfaction), and levels of burnout were examined. Data were collected from 1431 flight crew employed by Qantas.
The results generally support the model of adaptation to organisational change, which is based on Lazarus and Folkmans' (1984) cognitive-phenomenological model of stress and coping. There was evidence that employees' coping responses to the stress of the merger influenced their levels of adjustment. As predicted, the use of problem-focused coping, in general, had a positive impact on adjustment, and the use of avoidance (emotion-focused) coping was negative. There was also evidence that coping resources had both direct and indirect effects on adjustment. Efficacy also had indirect effects on adjustment, through their effects on coping responses. Generally, the levels of job satisfaction, organisational commitment, psychological well-being and burnout levels were acceptable. There were differences in these levels detected between flight crew groups, with the Australian crews reporting slightly higher levels of the above factors with the exception of burnout, which they reported as lower. Finally, various recommendations are made towards improving the merger process, based on the test of the model.