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Resistance to Change

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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What is Resistance to Change?

Change is constant and unavoidable. However, human behaviour has repeatedly shown a resistance to change in the existing methods and ways of doing work. Organizations, for the advancement of business processes, require constant adaptation to changes. However, organizational resistance to change acts as a major hindrance in the path of development and success of an organization. Such resistance to organizational change brings in the need for defined change management.

Before we move on to discuss the resistance to change theory, the reasons for resistance to change and the ways of managing the resistance to change, let’s take a quick look at the main causes of change in an organization:

  • Business strategy and structure change

  • Mergers and acquisitions

  • Product reaching the end of the life cycle

  • Changes in government priorities

So, the influencing factors for organizational change can be both internal as well as external.

Resistance to Change Meaning in Organizational Context

The resistance to change meaning can be defined as a major obstacle in the way of development with new technology and methodologies. Change in the techniques and organizational structure comes at regular intervals. However, with pre-existing methods, individuals become reluctant to learn and implement the new techniques bringing in a resistance to change. Resistance can be in the form of protests and strikes by employees, or even in the form of implicit behaviour. The organization with its managers must take up initiatives in managing resistance to change and in the process develop a gradual adaptation to change ensuring productivity as well as efficiency at work. 

Reasons for Resistance to Change

The common causes of resistance to change in all organizations are stated below:

  • People are not willing to go out of their comfort zones defined by some existing methods for learning something new.

  • Changes in methods and techniques come with a change in power, responsibilities as well as influence. Organizational resistance to change comes in from people negatively affected by the changes implemented.

  • Insecurity, laziness and lack of creative approach make people cling to the pre-existing customs there by resisting changes.

Types of Resistance to Change

The types of resistance to change are stated below:

1. Logical Resistance: Such resistances come in with the time genuinely required in adaptation and adjustment to changes. For example, with the advent of talkies, the movie production houses had to shift techniques in the change from silent movies to talkies. This, in a very logical sense, took time for the sound engineers and even the filmmakers to adapt.

2. Psychological Resistance: Often resistance to change in change management comes with the psychological factor of fear of embracing the unknown, or even from hatred for the management and other mental factors like intolerance to changes.

3. Sociological Resistance: Sometimes resistances come not for particular individuals but from a group of individuals. In such cases, individuals do not allow their acceptance with the fear of breaking ties with the group.  

Managing Resistance to Change

An organization’s effort in managing resistance to change should come with proper education and training of the employees of the changes implemented. For a smooth change to facilitate, the organization has to take care of the considerations stated below:

  • Changes should come in stages. A one-time major change would straightaway put operations into a stop.

  • Changes should not affect the security of workers.

  • Leadership qualities in managers with initial adaptations would gradually encourage employees to do so.

  • An opinion must be taken from the employees who will ultimately be subject to the changes.

  • Educating the employees and training them with the new methodology will boost up their confidence and build their efficiency. 

The basic resistance to change theory defines the resistance to change meaning as the reluctance of people to adapt to the changes and to cling to the pre-existing customs and methods, mostly due to the fear of facing the unknown and its possible negative effects. The management of an organization must be well aware of the various aspects of resistance to organizational change and be trained if the need arises, in methods of managing resistance to change. This is crucial for a smooth transition and restoration of organizational harmony.

Overcoming Resistance

Although change will always come with opposition, it is certainly possible to overcome it. Managers should strive to help their employees adapt to changes and facilitate new variations in performance.

First, managers must be able to convince employees that the changes they propose are necessary. They should show how employees and the organization itself will benefit from these changes. 

Second, managers can keep the following in mind to make changes smoothly:

  • Changes should not happen all at once because they are easy to apply in stages.

  • Changes should never create safety issues for employees.

  • Managers should consider the views of all employees who will influence the proposed change.

  • If managers show leadership by first adapting to the changes themselves, the staff is less likely to resist.

  • Adequate staff training in advance can help them to accept change with confidence.

The Importance of Participation

It is always a good idea to encourage employee participation when management plans for change. Since the changes are for employees, they should have a say in the planning process. Such participation will make them less likely to resist the implementation of the reforms.

Managers can arrange small informal meetings or conferences with staff on this. Managers must explain all the relevant details of the proposed changes. Employees should be encouraged to express their views as well.

How Resistance to Change Works

Resistance to change is reflected in actions such as:

  • Criticism

  • Nit-picking

  • Blasphemous comments or sarcastic remarks

  • You missed meetings

  • Failed bonds

  • Endless arguments

  • Destruction

If employees are not properly informed of changes in the way they work, especially if they do not see the need for change, they may become insensitive. They may also face opposition when they have not participated in the decision-making process.

Spotting Resistance

Note whether employees miss meetings related to change. Late assignments, forgotten obligations, and absenteeism may be signs of resistance to change.

Some employees will publicly challenge the change, its purpose, or how it happened. An employee with a high position and a senior officer may be strong in his or her resistance. Low-level workers may resist collective bargaining in ways such as downsizing, staying home from work, deliberately misunderstanding guidelines, and, in rare cases, planning to bring in a trade union.

Employees are also resilient to change by failing to take action to move to a new location, keeping quiet about their familiar and unfamiliar business, in the same way, withdrawing their interest and attention, and failing to add to interviews, negotiations, and application requests.

FAQs on Resistance to Change

1. What are the effects of resistance to change?

The Effects of Resistance to Change are Stated Below:

  • Low morale of employees: Low morale comes up with the feeling of losing benefits from implemented changes and with the hopelessness associated with careers in a particular organization. This can spread like a virus in the entire organization reducing work productivity and work efficiency in the process.

  • Lack of order in the work environment: Constant conflicts between the employees resisting change and the management may lead to prominent unrest causing protests and strikes, delaying work procedures and affecting the entire organization in the process.

  • Decreased efficiency: Resistance to change takes a certain period and focuses away from the performance of the daily operations, thus reducing the efficiency of work in the entire organization.

2. What are the basic methods of change management against the organizational resistance to change?

The basic methods to overcome the resistance to change can be taken up in the form of meetings and discussions with the employees allowing a proper analysis of their grievances aimed at coming to the required solutions. This should include proper training procedures for employees and awareness speeches letting them be acquainted with the benefits of the changes to be implemented.

The basic methods to change are as follows:

  • The management must be changed and optimized for the first time.

  • The resistance is expected to change

  • You need to give a formal address to the resistance

  • Identification of the resistance's root cause is important

  • The right resistant managers are required to be engaged

3. How can timelines be balanced in change management?

Changes should be implemented in a phased manner. Changes should be brought in with proper timelines for a smooth transition. Action should be planned properly with constant communication between the management and the employees followed by slow but sure implementation of change. Fast and unplanned actions might cause hindrances slowing down the entire operation of the business for a relatively long period. The management has to consider some of the very efficient management strategies to balance timelines. Although leaders can manage change planning, transparency, honesty, communication, and participation of the employees is very important.

4. What are some techniques of overcoming resistance to change and selection of appropriate techniques?

The appropriate techniques and methods to overcome resistance to change were proposed by Kotter and Schlesinger in 1979 in respect to the cause. Planned change is very necessary for an organization through effective communication which explains the need for change and objectives of change. 

Some points are given below:

  • There must be an improving communication and widespread education

  • There must be participation and involvement facilities

  • There must be negotiation and agreement

  • Consists of manipulation and co-optation

  • Both explicit and implicit coercion

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