Resistance to Organizational Change

Organization change is something that faces all companies at a certain time. It has remained constant in the business world. Through this process, an organization has the opportunity of changing its technologies, culture, strategies, structure and operational methods among others things (Reiss, 2013). There are a variety of reasons behind the changes taking place in an organization. Some companies change since they are experiencing growth, other change due to the need of down-sizing and in others the need to restructure is identified as the most effective way of attaining the desired goals. This process is not always smooth. Aspects of resistance are likely to arise regardless of how small the change is expected to be. Resistance is viewed as something normal since people want to retain the status quo and cling to habits. Management of organizational change ensures that plans are implemented in a manner that minimizes resistance and cost while maximizing effectiveness at the same time. Change is something that companies have to cope with if they are to remain relevant in a competitive business environment (Anderson & Anderson, 2010).

Employees tend to resist change based on a variety of reasons. Some people will resist change due to the fear of the unknown. There is usually no certainty of what will accrue as a result of the change. Some skills might be rendered redundant and obsolete. This automatically means that individuals possessing them get laid-off (Schein, 2010). Structures within the organization also result to resistance. A good example is a company I used to work for previously, which used the rating scale for performance appraisal. Employees used to resist even minor changes since there were worries on the impact they would have on performance. Low adaptability meant reduced performance, which would amount to negative consequences. Poor communication also contributes significantly when it comes to change resistance. Some managers are not efficient while communicating the proposed changes to employees. There is a tendency to leave out some important information that would go a long way to convincing employees to embrace change. Gaps in communication tend to pave way for inaccurate rumors to circulate within the organization (Schein, 2010). In some organizations, politics plays a critical role in enhancing resistance. There is a tendency to resist change in an attempt of “proving” that the decision made was wrong or individuals involved are not up to the task.

Resistance is usually problematic since it derails the organization from attaining its goals. Change is usually instituted with the objective of attaining some aspirations. The more people keep resisting the proposed change, the difficult it gets to attain these goals. This is because nothing can progress until all the parties are moving in the same direction. On some occasions, resistance usually results to conflicts in the organization. It is just like a tag of war whereby there are people who are ready to embrace change and others that are not ready. Tension tends to build up between these two groups since each group sees the other as an enemy. Working under such an environment cannot be fruitful at all (Singh, 2007). There needs to be a coherent partnership at the workplace for effectiveness to be realized. For these reasons, resistance can be viewed as something problematic. The management ought to come up with strategies of managing resistance to avoid its detrimental effects.

The relationship between resistance and power within an organization is somewhat complex. According to Lamm & Gordon (2010), the possibility of resistance is high when the notion of power relation exists. They assert that managers have labeled employees’ responses to change as resistance to get an opportunity of blaming less powerful employees with regards to the failure of change efforts. Managers never accept their role of failure in the change effort. According to Lamm & Gordon (2010), coercive change strategies tend to be the least effective. They are usually characterized by an emphasis on economic and political sanctions for those employees that fail to comply with proposed changes. On other occasions, there is the use of moral power where managers play on feelings of shame and guilt. Coercion ranges from subtle physical force to the use of manipulation. Powerful individuals within the organization tend to impose their will on junior employees in order to attain compliance. What happens is that these strategies might yield compliance, but fail to induce full support of the proposed change. Employees may end up undermining the change in the long-run. From a critical perspective, it is appropriate to argue that managers’ interests should not gain privilege over employees’ interests with regards to organizational change.  Boonstra (2011) views resistance as a feedback that employees give managers informing them that they need to change.

Psychological empowerment can also be used to explain the resistance aspect in relation to power. Changes in the organization have the ability of increasing or decreasing employees’ supremacy of empowerment. Boonstra (2011) asserts that psychological empowerment influences the support of organizational change. It is postulated that organizational resources should be used to ensure that employees have partial ownership of the change. The aspect tends to reinforce feelings of empowerment among employees. Managers ought to understand that complex inventions that require creativity and innovation from the staff need to be reinvented in the local context. In addition, there is a necessity to enhance change between employees and managers relations. When the decisions made by the management are viewed to be unfair, employees experience outrage, anger and feeling of retribution. However, when employees have a feeling that they are being treated fairly, they gain the ability to develop behaviors and attitudes that facilitate successful changes. In simple terms, employees use resistance as a way of exercising their power “restoring the injustice within the existing power relationships” (Lamm & Gordon, 2010).

During organizational change, there are a lot of things taking place to the extent of forgetting other important issues. Among them is ethics within the organization. Both the management and individuals resisting change are absorbed in propelling their agendas and tend to forget their ethical responsibilities. For the management to institute the change process, it is not unethical at all. Change is something that is constant, and will always exist for any organization with the desire to move forward (Pieterse, Caniëls & Homan, 2012). The actions and activities undertaken by some managers during this period are the ones that raise eyebrows with regards to ethics. To act ethically during the change process, the management ought to engage all the relevant stakeholders in the best way possible. The first step would involve undertaking an exhaustive communication process. All the relevant details regarding a certain change process should be communicated. It is upon the other stakeholders to decide whether they will embrace the change or not. It is unethical for the management to force employees into accepting something that they do not feel contented with. The need for change should not be intended to serve the interests of the people in management levels only (Hendrickson & Gray, 2012). Coercing employees to embrace change through deception, intimidation, back-stabbing and lying is also unethical. Individuals should be intrigued to buy into the idea through other ethical mechanisms.

From the resistant position, it is always expected that employees should take orders from the managers at all times. It is ethical adhering to the stipulations or proposals brought forward by the management. Resisting management propositions can be termed as being unethical. However, employees have the right to resist propositions that they do not feel are intended to work in the greatest interest of the organization. Resisting change to ensure that the best interest of the organization is put into consideration can be considered as ethical. The action shows that the moral consciousness of the employees would not allow them to stand the thought of the organization being driven in the wrong direction (Cawsey & Deszca, 2012).

Resistance to change is usually viewed as a stumbling-block for an organization to achieve its goals. Top level managers usually feel the urge to get rid of it as fast as possible in order to make the next step. Some are clouded by what needs to be achieved at present and lose the sight of solving the problem entirely to prevent it from surfacing in future. The positions taken by both the management and the resisting employees can have various implications on the organization. Among the areas that can be affected is the change management program.  The differences that exist between the two parties can be used to devise an effective program that would be used in future endeavors (Newton, 2013). The management is in dire need of implementing change, but there is resistance from the employees. It would be prudent for the management not to force the employees to buy-in through coercive mechanisms. Employees should be convinced to do so using ethical avenues. This is the point where they initiate communication with all the resisting stakeholders. The eventual objective of this process is to identify the issues that culminated to the resistance.

The process gives the management an opportunity of identifying what went wrong. While employees are resisting any changes efforts, there are reasons behind the action. On most occasions, these reasons are beyond their control. Employees tend to feel that the management has the ability to do something about it but are reluctant in one way or another. The resistant position taken by employees should be viewed as a blessing in disguise by the management. This is because it gives both parties an opportunity to discuss various issues that they have disagreements on. Every party gets an opportunity to tell their side of the story. It is upon the management to explain to the employees on the need for undertaking various changes in the organization. It goes further to explain why making the changes at that particular time would be more beneficial to the organization. Employees on the other hand, give their side of the story on why they are not into the idea. Here, the management can identify the gaps that exist within the management with regards to implementing change. There is the ability to identify what is being done wrong on the side of the management. From the knowledge gathered at this point, the management is able to develop effective change management program to be used in future endeavors. In the shortcomings in the current approach are addressed, and future changes will come along without experiencing resistance (Newton, 2013).


Resistance to change is something that is common with various business enterprises around the globe. It is usually experienced since change is constant and keeps taking place from time to time. Resistant to change can be demonized as a problem that should be managed due to the negative implications that it has to an organization. It usually has the ability to derail the organization from attaining its objectives. This is because most changes are undertaken with an attempt of taking the organization’s operations to the next level. Resistance stifles a company’s operations and hence possesses a threat to its ability of remaining a going concern for the desired period (Schermerhorn, 2012). It also brings enmity among the conflicting groups. There is a tendency to view individuals with contrasting opinions as rivals thereby creating a hostile workplace environment. This aspect should be managed adequately to salvage both present and future operations of an organization.

Resistant to change also has varied ethical implications. To begin with, employees’ actions can be viewed as unethical since they are expected to obey directives from the management. However, it can also be viewed as an ethical act if the employees are opposing the changes with the organization’s best interest at heart. This would be the case if the changes being advocated are only suited to benefit the management and not the company at large. Other ethical implications arise when the management tries to coerce resisting employees by way of threats, deception, intimidation, back-stabbing and lying. This is unethical, and the management ought to use appropriate mechanisms to convince employees to buy into their ideologies.

From the above information, resistance can be understood in another way. Sometimes employees feel less empowered, and they use resistance as a way of exercising their power to the management. That is, “restoring the injustice within the existing power relationships” (Lamm & Gordon, 2010).



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