Date of Conferral
Joseph E. Barbeau
Large-scale transformational change, such as the integration and acceptance of gays in the U.S. military, necessitates a long-term effort by management to mitigate unanticipated consequences. Suboptimal implementation may not account for damaging consequences among individuals expected to live the change. The purpose of this autoethnographic study was to examine the individual experiences of a closeted gay personnel member living through a transformational change in identity, which paralleled an organizational change in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The conceptual framework included elements of general systems theory, Kotter's theory of change management, Ostroff's change management for government, and Maslow's self-actualization theory. Data collection included logs, notes, journals, field notes, and recollections of experiences, conversations, and events connecting the autobiographical story to organizational change. Data were coded and analyzed to identify themes. Data analysis entailed triangularization using the largest DoD survey of that time, and public records of military personnel who participated in lawsuits against the DoD or opined about the policy. While the organization was transforming to allow openly gay individuals to remain in the military, findings showed that nearly half of those who offered opinions predicted that openly gay servicemembers would get beat up or abused. Findings showed the process of transformational change allowed those impacted to make their own sense of the change, and knowing whether someone was gay mattered. Findings may be used by sexual minorities and other subgroups to engage in sensemaking activities to promote transformational change initiatives.