A Grounded Model of Organizational Schema Change during Empowerment

Giuseppe Labianca, Barbara Gray, Daniel J. Brass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


We analyzed employee resistance to an organizational change project in which employees were empowered to participate in the design of a new organizational structure. What emerged from our analysis was the importance of cognitive barriers to empowerment. Employees' resistance appeared to be motivated less by intentional self-interest than by the constraints of well-established, ingrained schemas. Resistance was also fueled by skepticism among the employees about management's commitment to the new decision-making schema, especially because employees judged managerial actions to be inconsistent with their new espoused framework. A grounded model of schema change is developed for changes in organizational decision-making schemas during empowerment efforts. Theoretical implications and suggestions for improving organizational change efforts are proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-257
Number of pages23
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Cognition
  • Empowerment
  • Organization Change Process
  • Organizational Schemas
  • Resistance to Change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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