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Hospitality managers face many challenges as they implement strategic plans and lend their organizations through the transition process. In this paper, organizational transition is viewed from a symbolic/culture perspective and the impact of organizational culture on the change process is explored. The change process is seen as a disruption of existing organizational values, beliefs, and assumptions. Communication strategies are viewed as essential for effective transition leadership, enabling hospitality managers to overcome such barriers to change as: the customer as partial employee, a diverse workforce, and high levels of uncertainty. Effective managers use strategic ambiguity as well as myths and stories to communicate new organizational values. In order to lead their organization through the transition process, managers also facilitate information sharing and serve as boundary spanners, interpreting the perceptions of one group or department to those with different perspectives and concerns. Finally, hospitality leaders model effective listening skills which are essential to wise decision-making and the development of supportive work environments. The hospitality industry can respond to on-going organizational change by helping its managers understand the nature of organizational culture and develop the communication competencies that facilitate the transition process.


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© Elsevier. Final version published as: Brownell, J. (1990). The symbolic/culture approach: Managing transition in the service industry. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 9, 191-205. doi: 10.1016/0278-4319(90)90015-P
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.