This project is focused on the study of leadership and work environment in the contexts of restructuring, downsizing and closedowns. Corporate restructuring is the common term used to describe an organizational change event that usually includes advance notices, layoffs, cutbacks (“downsizing”) and closures (Gandolfi & Hansson 2011; Cascio 2012). In Sweden and much of the western world, the ongoing structural changes as well as impacts of economic downturns make restructuring a recurring phenomenon in the work environment of many employees. This project is thus about a relatively common and difficult phenomenon to handle - restructuring, and its connection to a much researched and discussed topic – leadership and managerial work that promotes a good work environment. We argue that restructuring work as a managerial task, is of importance for leadership, because it is a highly significant and difficult event with effects on the entire work group when one, several or all employees are forced to terminate their employment. It often causes uncertainty, guilt for those who remain and resentment directed towards management Studies in this area have previously been lacking when it comes to managerial learning and development of work environment actions for performing layoffs.
Leadership and managerial work as such, can be described as a complex phenomenon being defined, limited and enabled by: 1) the legal system, 2) the company management system and 3) the individuals involved (the psychological level) The particular changes in the form of restructuring also have an impact coming from all of these levels, for the managerial tasks for promoting good work environments As with other organizational changes, managers play a role as agents, implementers and sometimes simultaneously targets of restructuring decisions. Particularly, workforce reductions are a difficult task for managers because they work at the intersection of many interests and long term relationships that need to be balanced, such as profits, legal regulations, reputation, the relationship to employees, suppliers and customers . For some of the involved actors the restructuring changes are positive or necessary, while for others it might be entirely detrimental and a major cause for resistance and concern. Yet, managers must work under these pressures, which effect their own work environment.
The contextual conditions of the expected variation of ways of acting stemming from the interaction of the legal, the organizational management system and individuals, as well as the agency and degrees of freedom the different actors will be described in the study. The study is expected to offer both contributions to theory of leadership during various types of change and to research on organizational restructuring. It contributes to practice through analysis and documentation of management activities and its consequence for work environment. This will benefit practice by offering systematic evidence of ways to prepare managers/key actors in order to manage and organize restructuring as well as to promote good work environments.