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What is Resistance to Change?

Resistance to Change

Meaning of Resistance of Change

Resistance to change is perhaps the most baffling problem which the manager has to face. The resistance to change may be caused by a host of economic, social or psychological factors. It may be implicit or explicit and individual or collective. Implicit resistance may be manifested through resignation, tardiness, low morale, lack of motivation, increased absenteeism and increased requests for transfers. Explicit resistance, on the other hand, may assume the form of wild-cat strikes, go-slow tactics, dharma’s, genoas, violent behavior and sabotaging activities. Individual resistance, may be posed due to some personal economic or social reasons, while collective resistance, on the other hand, may centre around and structure, organizational constraints, threats to power and influence or fear of sunk costs. Resistance to change is not one way traffic from the side of employees. At times, it may be posed by the managers, particularly, when it is proposed by trade unions, government or any other outside agency. Further, resistance to change is not necessarily always undesirable or unethical. It may sometimes produce positive results by preventing undesirable changes, modifying ill conceived changes and forcing management to safeguard the interests of the affected people by the proposed change.

Reasons for Individual Resistance

Individuals by nature prefer status quo and dislike change. The following are some of such reasons why people resist change in the organizations.

1. Economic Reasons-

Fear of obsolescence of skills and financial loss are two major reasons for offering resistance to change.

  • Fear of Obsolescence of Skills-

    The rate at which the knowledge is exploding is incredible. As a result, knowledge in various fields quickly becomes obsolete whenever, people sense that the management is proposing a new technological change which may pose a threat of replacing or degrading them, they start offering stiff resistance to such change. Computerization in recent times has posed a real danger to the party and positions of many experienced executives, technicians and employees. People who are likely to be worst affected because their knowledge and skill would become outdated, strongly resist change. In the absence of marketability of their skills, they want to maintain status quo.

  • Fear of Financial Loss-

    Keith Davis has rightly observed, “People fear technological unemployment, reduced work hours, demotion, reduced wages and reduced incentives and therefore, resist change,” Thus, fear of loss of employment, demotion, increased work load, degradation of their authority and power, blockade of their promotions, resulting from the proposed change, are the major reasons of individual or organizational resistance. Greater is the perceived loss, more intensive is the resistance.

2. Psychological Reasons-

Psychological reasons for resistance may include ego-defensiveness, love for status quo and fear of unknown.

  • Ego defensiveness-

    An ego-defensive manager or the subordinate resist change when he perceives that the change has been proposed by a member of the opposite camp. He offers resistance because if the change is implemented, his ego will be hurt and his prestige may be undermined in the organization.

  • Love for status quo-

    People have love for and vested interest in the status quo. It is because people get adjusted, to a set pattern of organization relationships, life, resources, objectives and philosophies. They also develop social and informal relations with their peers and managers. They feel satisfied and comfortable in status quo. Venturing any change may involve uncertainty and risk and may adversely affect their comforts and conveniences. The problem, of readjustment to the new situation causes resistance.

  • Fear of unknown-

    When the change is fraught with uncertainty and risk, people get worried and start resistance to change. Fear of unknown and preference, for known is a great psychological phenomenon. People many times refuse to go no promotion, accept new assignments and transfer to a new place for fear of unknown.

  1. Social Reasons-

People also resist change, when they perceive that the change may result in their social displacement or adversely affect their social relations.

  • Social displacement-

    Within the organization, people develop informal groups and social relations. They move in a friend circle and feel adjusted with the group, work environment and the boss. When they visualize the change is likely to disturb their social pattern of life and style, they offer resistance for fear of social displacement.

  • Peer Pressures-

    Fellow feeling or the pressures from the group to which they belong is also a major cause of resistance. Many times, people do not resist for their own sake, but for the cause of their colleagues or on the instructions of their wishes.

Reasons for Organizational Resistance

Many times, the resistance to change is initiated by the organization as a whole or by the top management. Following are the main reasons for organizational resistance.

  • Threat to Power and Influence-

    Managers occupying top, key and prestigious positions resist change when they perceive that the change may threaten to their position, power or influence. Introduction of new technology, resulting in organization structure (levels, department, authority or responsibility) or reallocation of resources may disrupt the existing power relationship and may adversely affect some of the top executives. They initiate resistance in order to safeguard their interest by maintaining status quo.

  • Inflexibility in Organizational structure-

    Some organizational structures have built-in mechanism for resistance to change. For instance, in a typical bureaucratic structure where chain of command is clearly spelled out, authority, responsibility and duties are clearly defined, flow of information is stressed through proper channel and the entire pattern is highly mechanistic and rigid, any change in the organization structure or pattern would either be not possible or strongly refuted.

  • Resource Constraints-

    Organizational change usually involves a huge expenditure, and sufficiency of resources usually is a major constraint. In such a situation, change is resisted by the departmental heads and employees. This is true when the Government forces the organization to introduce certain technological, organizational or social changes but does not provide adequate human and physical resources, the organizations oppose such changes. Similarly when trade unions pressurize management to introduce certain changes for the safety, welfare and comforts of the employees, the managements put resistance to such changes for lack of availability of funds.

  • Fear of Loss of Investment-

    In case, when organizations have invested a huge capital in their permanent assets, and training of the employees, they are afraid capital being sunk, if they introduce a new technology.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Changes are imperative for the continuity and growth and resistance is its normal outcome for variety of reasons. Overcoming resistance to change is, therefore, a real challenge to the dexterity of the managers. Change creates fear, tension and emotional turmoil in the minds of the people. However, people react in a variety of ways towards a change. While some people put strong opposition and create barriers to avoid a proposed change, other prepared to accept in after initial resistance. On the other hand, there are some who are enthusiastic, optimistic and happy about the proposed change and are ready to extend their willing support. Hence, the management should carefully plan the whole process of change to reduce resistance and build a positive attitude of the people. The following steps may prove use in this connections.

  1. Proper Education and Communication of change-

    Lack of understanding about the nature and consequences of the change is one of the major reasons for offering resistance. They start resisting out of sheer misunderstanding or apprehensions. The manager should, therefore, try to explain clearly the nature, objectives, reasons time, process and the consequences of the proposed change to the people likely to be affected. This would require a systematic education and communication of the whole scheme of change to the people in order to make them understand the need and rationale of the change. Once they are acquainted with the scheme of change, many misconceptions and fears will automatically subside and their willing acceptance will come forward.

  2. Participation-

    If the employees are involved and their active participation is sought in designing and implementing the scheme of change, the management can forestall resistance to a considerable extent. If people are allowed to discuss, express their views, opinions, feelings, doubts, fears opinions; and taken in confidence at the stage of designing the scheme of change, the scheme would not only be more realistic but also be more acceptable to the people. Participation would lead to strong commitment and better compliance. The strategy of participation would also serve the purpose of education and communication of the change to the people.

  3. Facilitation and support-

    Problem of readjustment in the changed situation is a major cause of resistance. The change agent should, therefore, ensure to provide all possible facilities and support. This may include emotional support by effectively listening to the grievances of the people and removing their doubts and fears, and physical support by providing them appropriate tools, materials, advice, training, etc., Management should also extend social support by awarding social recognitions and appreciations.

  4. Positive Incentives-

    The management should link positive incentives, like increments, promotion perquisites, authority, power and social prestige with the change. It should also ensure that employees who are prepared to accept the change will be fully protected against any financial loss or the loss in their organizational status or social dignity.

  5. Pressure and coercion-

    Managers can also resort to direct or indirect coercion to force the people to accept change. The threat of withholding promotion, or increment, demotion, withdrawing certain facilities or powers, transfer on unattractive positions or firing from employment are some of the coercive tactics to compel people to accept change. However, these tactics should be utilized as a last resort.

  6. Manipulation of facts-

    The manager can also resort to manipulative tactics by manipulating things, and presenting facts before the employees in such a manner that they fail to understand the real implications and consequences of the change. The benefits should be highlighted and negative points suppressed to present a rosy picture of the change. This tactics is fraught with dangers and should be rarely used.

  7. Group dynamics-

    Informal groups exert considerable influence on the behaviour and attitude of the people in the organizations. Any change is accepted or resisted by them as a number of the group rather than individually. Managers should therefore, try to study the group dynamics and consider the group as a means of change. Group dynamics refer to the forces operating in the group. If these forces are properly identified and tackled, the problem of resistance can be solved to a great extent. Darwin Cart Wright has suggested that the following characteristics of the group should be properly studied to overcome resistance to change.

    • Sense of belonging-

      If the group is bound by a strong fellow-feeling, it can be effectively used as a means of changes. However, it is capable of putting strong resistance also.

    • Group Prestige-

      If the members attach much importance to the group prestige, they try to support the group behaviour and prefer uniformity of behaviour or the group over an issue. The more cohesive the group is, the more it becomes desirable to use group as a means of change.

    • Attitude value and behaviour-

      Group will be more effective in changing the attitude, values and the behavior of the members in the areas related to the purpose of the group. Where change is not related to the interests of the group, it will not be effective in organizational change.

    • Influence of the group leader-

      If the leader of the group commands confidence and respect in the members, the group as a means of change, will prove more effective, otherwise not.

    • Deviation from group norms-

      If the change proposes a major deviation from the accepted group norms and values, the change is likely to be strongly refuted.

    • Shared perception and information-

      The group also provides forms of discussion and the entire group can perceive the real implications of the change. This also serves as a means of education and communication of the change and makes the job of the change agent easier.

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