Big change ahead: how reform affects public servants


Public sector reform is constant and its pace quickening, yet little appears to be known about the effect such changes have on the public servants that are actually going through it.

The Australian Journal of Public Administration (AFPA) is producing a special issue looking at how the way change is managed can affect employees working in the public sector and non-governmental organisations, both positively and negatively.

Yvonne Brunetto and Stephen Teo from Melbourne’s RMIT University are looking for submissions from all over the world and across different sectors, including education, healthcare, emergency services and non-essential services.

Ms Brunetto said she wanted to examine the real impact of change upon people and gather examples of best practice from different regions and countries that could be replicated in other settings.

“There has had been a lot of writing about change at a macro level looking at organisations and how much money is being saved,” Ms Brunetto said.

“We’re bringing together a critical body of evidence, particularly across countries, to see what has been the impact of change on the public sector.”

Brunetto has spent many years studying how humans adapt and cope during periods of business transformation in the public sector.

One study looked at how an increase in managerial power at local government level in Australia decreased the well-being and engagement of local government workers and compared this with local government workers in the USA, where this was not the case.

She has also examined the experiences of police officers in the USA, after wide-ranging reforms and compared them to the well-being of police officers in Malta, where conditions were more stable.

Now, the two academics want other researchers to pool their knowledge.

“We’re inviting people to tell us about research at the individual level of analysis, how changes have affected employees,” she said.

“There’s a whole new movement in management that’s looking towards positive organisational behaviour, what people are doing right that we can talk about as being evidence or best practice.

“We’re trying to find the positive stories so that we can start to tell that story.”

Research can cover a huge range of topics, such as work-life balance, brain drain, workers compensation, stress claims, what empowering structures look like, the glass ceiling and whether short-term contracts have affected employee well-being.

However, Brunetto says she is open to stories of how change was handled badly and produced poor outcomes for workers.


  • Send 250 words abstract as an expression of interest to and by 31 August, 2016
  • Notification to proceed to full paper by 15 September, 2016
  • Submission of full paper via the Journal’s Manuscript Central website: 01 February 2017
  • Publication in late December 2017 or early 2018

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