Employee Resistance to Change

Table of Content

Resistance is any behavior that tries to uphold the status quo in the face of pressure to change it. It is intrinsically neither good nor bad. While managers’ aims on a particular change see resistance as an uninvited obstacle to be conquered, it is not always counterproductive. Resistance often offers another point of view in a perfectly rational reaction to a planned change. It can offer a check-and-balance that protects important systems or practices from change that is too fast. Resistance can also motivate innovative problem solving and foster alternate options that may be better for employees and the organization.

Resistance is a natural part of the change process and is to be expected. Resistance occurs because change involves going from known to the unknown. Typically, individuals seek a comfortable level of arousal and stimulation and try to maintain that state. Individuals differ in terms of their ability and willingness to adapt to organizational change. This is because individuals experience change in different ways. Some people tend to move through the change process rather quickly, while others may become stuck or experience multiple transitions (Bovey, & Hede, 2001).

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Resistance can also slow or impede the pace of needed change, in which case it is a problem to be managed. Managing resistance can be hard in any workplace, but where a union exists; management must face more sources of resistance, more reasons for resistance, and greater capability to resist than where one is not present. Understanding these features of resistance is a requirement to formulating a labor relations philosophy and change theory for a unionized workplace. Resistance to change in a unionized workplace can come from symbolize employees, the union, or non-represented employees.

While individuals within each group may have much in general, they also are different in a lot of ways. Each group has its own exclusive needs as well as interests that must be addressed to efficiently deal with their resistance. Represented employees, union leaders, as well as non-represented employees can all resist change. Whether they in fact do, and if so, the degree and technique of resistance, varies to a great extent, depending on the issues concerned and the anticipated impact of the change.

This means a cookie cutter approach to managing with resistance will not work, and that diverse groups and individuals within those groups must be dealt with in a different way. How they must be dealt with often depends on the reason they are resisting. Employee resistance is the act of the recipients or targets (and rarely of agents as well) to uphold the status quo. Their height of resistance will be affected by how wanted or unwanted they distinguish the change to be. If they distinguish the change as wanted, they can become advocates. Two examples of dealing with Employee Resistance.

The approach symbolized in CMMS is very much opposite to traditional methods for asset maintenance, which are—at least officially—extremely reactive. As with collective material planning methods, reactive methods of maintenance are also a result of post-WWII scarcity. They in addition suppose that life cycles of equipment are impulsive and that the most cost-effective approach to maintenance is to milk an asset for all it is worth by running it to failure. Now that components can be obtained easily, nonetheless, reactive methods of maintenance are considered to be needlessly expensive.

In fact, recent data offered by the Society of Automotive Engineers point out that in the 1960s the parts/labor ratio was 2/1. In the 1990s the ratio completed a complete reversal (parts/labor = 1/2). Maintenance practices that highlight reactive repairs also necessitate redundant systems, large spare factors, as well as significant loss of revenue opportunity when equipment is down for repair. Additionally, when large fleets of buses or trains support the economic performance of large metropolitan areas, as well as reliable service is expected, running to failure introduces intolerable uncertainty.

Significant as they are, technologies have enjoyed mixed achievement in workplaces. Current literature on their failure designates that large information technologies are hard to put into practice. Typical accomplishment times for the introduction of complex information technologies for instance MRPII and CMMS are on the order of 12 to 18 months (per site) and success rates have been low, particularly for systems that present the opportunity for company-wide resource management through planning.

For instance, studies of technologies of this kind by the Gartner Group and others have shown that as many as 50% of new systems are discarded in the first year and probably 90% never reach their full potential. In the manufacturing arena, success rates are as low as 20%. Most businesses now make out that the failure of these kinds of technologies is fundamentally a “user” problem rather than a technology problem. nevertheless, we think that businesses, in particular, disgustingly misunderstand the nature of this user problem.

The most outstanding misunderstanding involves the idea of “resistance. ” For instance, one frequently given reason for the failure of these technologies is workers who fear and are resistant to change. Generally, most firms now acknowledge that technologies for instance CMMS and MRP require 99% data accuracy and are sensitive to level-of-detail issues. As a result, many attempts have been made to organize technologies among frontline workers who are in contact with the details of everyday operations or have comprehensive knowledge of equipment. onetheless, this group has not reacted well. Frequently, they are seen as not having sufficient computer skills. When training has been attempted, frontline workers have not learned much from the (usually vendor provided) classroom instruction. They might not learn what is needed, do not convey what they learn to practice, or resist the training experience itself. A cognitive analysis of behavior that is similar to resistance yields a deeper understanding of how people transform and learn and presents greater opportunities for productive technology deployment.

For instance, frontline workers’ resistance to technology instruction is in fact partially rooted in their success as craftspersons, which both selects and builds up a learning style that is based on problem solving, experimentation, as well as hands-on contact (Hendry, 1996). Prior to the year 1980, within business texts, organizational change as a management practice was either not talked about at all (cf. Steers, 1981), or was limited to conversation of group dynamics as well as employee resistance to change (Klein and Ritti, 1980).

The idea of organizational change in the late 1970s and early 1980s, built up from learning theories as well as an action research approach to organizational problems (Hendry, 1996). Drawing on behavioral in addition to cognitive theories, organizational development (OD) techniques were used to revamp jobs. For instance, management and supervisory training was used to endorse leadership abilities. In due course, the importance on change programs has toggled focus from ways to progress employee satisfaction to an objective today of customer-driven corporate efficiency.

But something more than a change in focus has taken place. The idea of organizational change has taken on new meaning. Since the early 1980s, it has happen to a vital rather than a technique to be considered at suitable times, a holistic rather than a gradual approach to organizational effectiveness. Over the last two decades managers have more and more been faced with the idea that ‘change’ is a global occurrence that is substantial and predictable, yet comprehensible and controllable. In this account ‘change’ is, at one and the same time, a threat as well as a challenge.

Manager’s disregard change at their threat and there are many books and articles eager to dispute that managers need to master, plan, put into practice (Lippitt et al. , 1985), control, manage or ride the whirlwind of change. In due course, popular arguments on the significance of change as well as change management have join together into an influential set of ideas and practices that enlighten new generations of managers. The common cultural conflicts in mergers and acquisitions (Buono and Bowditch, 1989) and negative career inferences of economizing and delayering (Hirsch; 1987) comprise influential sources of employee resistance.

Resistance does not appear to be inadequate to these more understandable occasions, but instead tends to be so extensive across diverse types of planned change that it is viewed as a general pattern. Strategic change can be described as the rearrangement between the organization and its surroundings that affects the accomplishment of the organizational goals. Given that it is proposed to perk up the organization’s capability to endure by better satisfying its objectives and satisfying its stakeholders, it would be odd certainly if employees in general inclined to resist strategic change.

Diverse types of changes are probable to vary in conditions of the degree to which they threaten corporate cultures as well as careers. Comparisons between these types could improve our knowledge of where, when, and why employees resist and thus also how they can be better managed. It is likely that the occurrence of employee resistance stems from the fact that managers in addition to researchers may still maintain theory X assumptions concerning employee reactions and these become self-fulfilling predictions when implementing as well as studying strategic changes.

McGregor’s (1960) classic book The Human Side of Enterprise taught us thirty-five years ago that decision-making behavior depends on our suppositions of people and if we view them as intrinsically disliking work, we will effort to force them toward adequate performance. Translating this theory X assumptions to the dynamic state of affairs of strategic change, people are viewed as stability-prone and consequently will fear and resist most changes. Sources of employee resistance can be established at organizational as well as international levels of cultural inertia, as well as at the individual level of negative career insinuation.

In other words, attempting to appreciate and manage employee resistance at one level does not prevent resistance unpredictably arising as a result of issues at another level. It is likely to distinguish between a culturally leaning macro-approach to the collective human side and a cognitively oriented micro-approach to the more individual human side of deliberate change. Culture refers to the inter-subjectively communal meanings of societies as well as organizations (Smircich, 1983).

Attempts to comprehend collective response of employees to strategic change have characteristically been made from cultural viewpoint, where culture frequently is viewed as a constraint on change (Schein, 1987). Development of the organization’s boundaries tends chiefly to be studied from the cultural macro-approach in terms of clashes between managerial cultures in domestic corporate combinations as well as societal cultures in international expansion. The cultural side of mergers and acquisitions has been emphasized during the last ten years as one main reason for employee resistance and poor joint performance.

Astonishingly, the emphasis has been almost completely on clashes between managerial cultures in domestic combinations, even if one would look forward to more severe cultural clashes in cross-border mergers and acquisitions that also engage diverse national cultures. Philippe Very, Michael Lubatkin, and Roland Calori not merely dealt with the impact of national cultures but in addition question the conventional view that cultural differences essentially result in negative acculturative stress.

They reviewed top managers of British and French firms that were lately obtained by British, French, or American firms, concerning their insights of acculturative stress and their firm’s performance since the merger. From this design, they discover that the financial performance of acquired firms is prejudiced by cultural differences; that the differences may originate from organizational culture, national culture, or both; and that the direction of the influence may possibly be country-specific.

Conclusion. The common cultural explanations of employee resistance can be compared with the alternative or complementary enlightenment of stability-inducing reward systems. Rikard Larsson, Kristina Eneroth, and Ingo Konig build up a change-launching reward structure based on the inducement-contribution model. Using a case-cluster technique, they study five international developments to discover how reward systems deal out inducements during change processes. The disturbance of the inducement-contribution equilibrium is established to be more reliable with differences in resistance than cultural explanations.

They recognize ethnocentric, polycentric, as well as geocentric reward policies for international development and offer a change-related typology of reward systems with diverse proposed employee results. Their relative analysis also points out that the three cases of cross-border acquisitions practiced more employee resistance than the two Greenfield investments, thus highlighting the human side of the conventionally strategic as well as financial question of making-versus-buying internationalization.


Buono, A.F., and Bowditch. J.L. The Human Side of Mergers and Acquisitions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.

Hendry, C. (1996) Understanding and Creating Whole Organizational Change through Learning Theory. Human Relations, 49(5).

Hirsch, P.M. Pack Your Own Parachute. How to Survive Mergers, Takeovers, and other Corporate Disasters. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1987.

Klein, S. M., and Ritti, R. R. (1980) Understanding Organizational Behavior. Boston, MA: Kent Publishing

Lippitt, G. L., Langseth, P., and Mossop, J. (1985) Implementing Organizational Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McGregor, D. The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.

Schein, E.H., Ed. The Art of Managing Human Resources. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Smircich, L. “Concept of Culture and Organizational Analysis.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 198 (1983), 339-358.

Steers, R. M. (1981) Introduction to Organizational Behavior. Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear Publishing Inc.

Wayne H. Bovey, and Andrew Hede, 2001. Resistance to organizational change: the role of defense mechanisms. Journal of Managerial Psychology 16, 7.

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Employee Resistance to Change. (2017, Mar 06). Retrieved from


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