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Resistance to change refers to actions that groups of people or individuals take when a change occurs in their environment and they perceive that change as a threat to their wellbeing. This implies that the perceived threat may not be real for the resistance to change to take place.
The phrase ‘resistance to change’ is mostly used in organizations that face resistance when implementing strategic changes in their operations, portfolios, management, etc. It can however be applied in any situation where people resist change for a variety of reasons (Heathfield 1). This paper defines resistance to change, explains why people resist change, and explores the forms that resistance to change take.
Why people resist change
One of the main reasons why people resist change is ambiguity. People will read sinister motives in cases where change is imposed on them without proper explanations being made. The reason for change should therefore be clear to the affected parties in order to avoid resistance. Similarly, if the change agents do not consult the affected people during the change process, the latter are likely to resist the change.
Organizations that impose changes as accomplished facts and those that do not communicate sufficiently to the affected people during the change process are likely to face greater resistance. Resistance to change is also greater in cases where pre-established working relations are threatened by the change.
People affected by change also tend to resist changes if the benefits of the changes are outweighed by the challenges of the process of change and the challenges of the change itself. Changes that threaten the status, jobs, or power of people in an organization are also likely to face more resistance (Heathfield 1).
Forms of resistance to change
Resistance can be implicit or overt. Implicit resistance is the kind of resistance where people resist a certain change without being too vocal about it. It is common in cases where affected people are not allowed to disapprove management decisions openly.
For instance, if an organization changes the technology it uses in its operations, workers may resist this change implicitly by being unreasonably slow. On the other hand, overt resistance is the form of resistance in which the people resisting change make their feelings about the change known. This may be in boardrooms or in a strike (Ford 1).
Additionally, resistance can be deferred or immediate. In deferred resistance, the affected people take some time to evaluate the change before they resist to the change. In immediate resistance, the affected people express their displeasure towards the change right after the organization proposes the changes (Ford 1).
Finally, resistance can cause functional conflict or dysfunctional conflict. Functional conflict means that the resistance to change helps the organization in achieving its goals. On the other hand, dysfunctional conflict means that the resistance to change leads to the organizations inability to attain its goals fully. It is therefore important to note that resistance to change is not always bad. Thus, resistance to change can benefit the organization in the end (Ford 1).
As evidenced in the discussion above, resistance to change is a major issue in organizations. It can result from real concerns by the affected people and it can be because of unjustifiable fears. Regardless of the cause, resistance to change takes a variety of forms that organization can use to develop effective corrective interventions.
Ford, Jeffrey. Decoding Resistance to Change. 2009. Web. Sep 26. 2012. <https://hbr.org/2009/04/decoding-resistance-to-change>
Heathfield, Susan. How to Reduce Resistance to Change. 2012. Web. Sep 26. 2012. <https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-reduce-employee-resistance-to-change-1918992>