Promoting changes in an organisation is never an easy task. Coping with changes is an individual process and affects our individual physical and psychological well-being. This study attempted to analyse how university reforms were experienced by academic staff. It is framed by Self-Determination Theory, according to which there are three basic psychological needs that affect all people: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. I conducted Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA; Smith et al., 2009) to gain insight into participants’ experiences during the period of 4 years, 2014-2018. The participants came from two academic staff communities of the same institution. The data collection methods were observations, diary notes, and interviews. The data were analysed according IPA. The results reveal the important role of the sense of community and belongingness between academic peers and colleagues within broader academic staff communities. In fact, it may influence the individual’s experience of reforms in both directions—peaceful confidence or alarming apprehension. The findings suggest that lack of autonomy about one’s work life increases negative attitudes towards the reforms and alludes to emotion-focused coping strategies, whilst autonomy supportive and open working environment supports coping with reforms in an academic institution.


coping strategies, organizational commitment, self-determination theory, teacher community, interpretive phenomenological analysis

Author Bio(s)

Merilyn Meristo is an associate professor of French Studies and a teacher trainer. Her research focuses on teachers, especially on teachers' job satisfaction, well-being, and sense of community. Please direct correspondence to merilyn.meristo@tlu.ee.


I would like to thank all the participants! I am also grateful to Francisco Javier López Arias and Mihaela Stîngu for their valuable comments on the manuscript.

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