Getting unstuck: Business professor's research focuses on organizational change

In This Story

People Mentioned in This Story
Victoria Grady headshot
Victoria Grady. Photo provided

Victoria Grady, an associate professor of management and organizational behavior in George Mason University’s School of Business, has focused her research on organizational change. In her latest book "Stuck: How to WIN in Business by Understating LOSS" (Productivity Press, 2022), written with Mason adjunct professor Patrick McCreesh, Grady delves into 20 years of research on how people—and their brains—react to change in the workplace and beyond.

What inspired you to write this book?

The origin of my interest in the topic spans 20 years. After living in the Southern and Northeast United States and Germany, I noted very similar reactions from my students who were experiencing change based on a new technology integration. What was most notable is that regardless of the age, demographic, socioeconomic, or cultural differences, most people responded to the change [in a way] that was generally similar. It varied from person to person and organization to organization, but it was too similar to ignore.

In 2012, I published a book called “The Pivot Point: Success in Organizational Change.” “Pivot Point” was basically a one-story example with an overview of the science that supported the story. As the research evolved, we realized that the 2012 publication needed to be expanded beyond just describing the behavioral response to change, to include more examples and a much more detailed strategy to understand what I like to refer to as the “beneath the surface” aspect of organizational change. 

Was there anything that surprised you in the research?

I think the biggest surprise in the entire process is the similarities in the human response to change across all boundaries. Being constantly introduced to different cultures, personalities, and educational experiences has helped me to understand and truly appreciate that the instinctual response to change is unique to humans. Networking with colleagues from Norway, China, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Israel, and more, has helped me to understand that the depth of attachment behavior is rooted in basic human instinct—and then being able to validate these behaviors through experience across the globe is mind boggling.

There is a lot of psychology in this book. Is understanding people a crucial part of managing them?

There is a lot of psychology—I think it can seem very heavy. That is why we use the story-based examples at the beginning of each chapter—it makes the other “heavy” text much more relatable. That is something my co-author, Patrick McCreesh, is much better at than I am. We probably spent at least 100 hours just talking through the examples, observations, and case studies from our experiences to capture the most relatable stories for the book. And, yes, unequivocally, I believe that understanding your people at their most basic behavioral instinct is critical to effectively and fairly managing them. 

Do you think we are more "stuck" now after the pandemic?

Are we more “stuck,” or are we just more aware of it? I am not sure. What I will say is that I think we have all experienced a huge amount of unanticipated change. I think it is hard—and honestly, we have a long way to go—not necessarily with COVID-19 per se, but with the after-effects on our behaviors. The behavior change we experienced was massive. And, not to state the obvious, but we will not just snap back into pre-pandemic behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes. It is going to take time.

What are you working on now?

I am working with our research team to continue to advance the practice of the theory. We have recently made some unique discoveries related to our work with attachment styles in the workplace. I am super excited to share those developments in the near future.