An Examination of the Experiences of Organisational Restructuring on the Working Lives of Older Women
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Restructuring has emerged as a contemporary business practice utilised by organisations to remain competitive in increasingly globalised, neo-liberal free markets, and has contributed to the transformation of work in the 21st century. The impacts of restructure on workers are considerable. Research suggests that restructure is a stressor for workers, resulting in reduced organisational commitment, performance, engagement, satisfaction, and health. Women are disproportionately affected by organisational restructuring, and this appears to hold true regardless of work level. Furthermore, workers aged 55 years and older are more likely than any other age cohort to be made redundant as a result of restructuring, are less likely to find re-employment, and are at greater risk of financial disadvantage due to loss of employment. Little qualitative research exists on the restructure experiences of women aged 55 years and older, despite this intersectional identity being identified as at greater risk than other cohorts of negative outcomes of restructure. As a result, this research aims to examine the experiences of organisational restructure on the working lives of older women. The findings of the research indicate that restructure is a significant and often traumatic life event that changes participants’ relationship to work and to organisations, and had broad impacts on the trajectory of their careers. Aligned with evidence from life course research, the experience of restructure orients participants to reconsider what is meaningful to them and contributes to their workforce exit intentions. This research contributes to theory by exploring experiences in a cohort of participants that has to date received little attention. In contrast with other research on restructure experiences, this research identified five distinct stages of the restructure experience, suggesting a more fine grained approach to stages of restructure than has previously been proposed. The research has implications for practitioners considering undertaking a restructure. Practitioners should consider the short and long term impacts of restructure on individuals, work teams, and organisations prior to launching an organisational restructuring effort, and carefully consider whether the ostensible benefits are worth the human cost.