Psychologists refer to resistance to change as a natural reaction to uncertainty and/or the unknown. Organizations have human capital thus in times of change resistance is dominant. A change is likely to revolutionize the status quo in an organization; the nature of human beings is that they rather stay under the current prevailing condition than change to other lifestyles that they are uncertain about.
This notion and nature of human beings makes them resist change. A change in any process or activity in an organization requires careful preparation. Innovations and transformation are proving that change in how businesses are conducted is here to stay. Change is inevitable. Although changing people is not easy, future success of businesses is in how well they are going to anticipate and adjust to change.
The way business is conducted has to be adjusted with the changing environment. Change is a gradual process that must be well planned. The management should be actively involved in the change process since support is required from all corners. When an organization or a country at large, wants to make a change in the way things are done, then the start point is understanding the need that require change.
People are not willing to change, they are static; however if well implemented then it can be a smooth transition. Organizational culture has a great influence on how employees will embrace change and also how managers communicate to their juniors. Organizations with a freelance kind of organizational culture have better communication among the staff and with the outside environment.
To initiate change in such institutions is easier than in organizations where the management dominate in all decision making procedures without consultation of their juniors. In large organizations, there can be a division into various departments with each expected to face a certain area.
As much as there are departmental meetings, and departments are supposed to come up with their own way of doing things, there are meeting with the larger managements that are not restricted to the team managers alone. Managers in such departments should be given the mandate of communicating change; if the relation they maintains with the team members is not healthy, then change will receive unpleasant reception. This paper discusses resistance to change in organizations.
Reason for the Resistance
When change is occurring in an organization, the way the management (who in most cases are the agents of change) communicate the change they want implemented in an organization determines whether the change will be embraced by employees or it will face resistance.
In an organization, communication is the system through which management and the teams transfer information. It is both upwards and downwards. Good communication in an organization means that issues and progress of the business are discussed in a way that the target group gets the intended message. In the case of a management that does not maintain good relations that facilitate communication when change comes it is taken as a move by the management to make things happen.
People will not be willing to come from their status quo and adopt the change but they will be willing to fight the change. Resistance to change where communication lacks is even higher when groups in the organization join hands together to repel the change. There will be no one who really understands the need for change since they are at a distance with the management.
For example, incase an organization want to establish a computer network in its organization, the employees may feel that the change is coming to replace them. They are likely to refuse change. This is the power of unknown since there is no one who is willing to explain what effect the change will have on the employees. The first step in successful change is to identify the communication weaknesses in a business. This can be through brainstorming where challenges facing the business can be identified.
Such challenges can be obtained through reviewing the day to day activities of the business (Guffer & Almonte, 2009). Some questions may serve as a guideline, these include: Have employees been provided with a good working environment? Are they happy with what they are doing? Has the business been able to satisfy all the clients? Is proper information provided to all stakeholders? Is there good flow of conversations?
The four communication weaknesses or barriers are overload of messages, failure to share information among major stakeholders, failure to include employees in decision making processes, and personal attributes.
Employees are given many instructions and they are not given room to practice them nor to show their expertise. Communication means more than just giving out messages; it involves speaking, listening, sending, and receiving messages. In communication, listening is the key to success and most of the time listening gets people into problems because they do not practice the same.
For business communication to be successful, listening has to be proficient. Listening simply means holding back one’s judgment and allowing answers to come from outside. This is not the case in many organizations where the managers decide what to do instead of receiving views from the other members of staff. Sharing of important information is poor and most of the time it is withheld from the staff (Ian & Dunford, 2005).
In an ideal situation, views from all are weighed equally and no one is supposed to be seen as the sole holder of wisdom (Anon, 2010). Though decisions may take a long period of time when all views are considered; such organizations in most cases make informed decisions. There are firms that embrace change and keep changing gradually. Innovations in the organizations are seen as the order of the day and entrants are highly encouraged to be innovative and embrace change.
When change is being implemented in an organization, it creates uncertainty in the minds of the employees. They are not aware of what will happen to their jobs, status ranks, and even salaries. They feel that the intended change will have a negative impact on their lives and thus they repel the change; this is fear of unknown; the fear may be in one person or an entire department.
Fear comes with repelling the intended change and also makes a slowdown to the normal processes. The fear is seen like a wave of demonization prevailing in the organization.
Change is taken for different reasons; each reason has some objectives that it aims at meeting. The universal objectives are; improve current working conditions and strategies, adopt a different way of doing things, make new combinations of resources in an organization, adopt new technology, change of business, target market, production formulae, management, job schedules, and job description and have a different human resource management system, computer system among others.
In the above objectives, there must be a restructuring of the way things are generally done and thus employees wonder their fate after the change. The existence of opinion leaders will increase the fears or will reduce them depending on the position the opinion leaders are taking. Fear is made even worse by the facts that when some changes occur in an organization, they lead even to loss of jobs, which is the greatest fear to an employee.
The leadership of an organization plays an important role in strategy development in the firm. If the leaders are not ready to answer and manage fears that the employees have then employees are likely to see the move toward change as unplanned and uncontrolled.
Leaders are from the top most to the supervisors. In most cases the supervisors are asked by their juniors various questions regarding the change they want to implement in the business. If there has been no well coordinated communication, then the employees are likely to repel the change.
Immediate team leaders are free with the employees and they should be willing and entertaining the coming change. If themselves they are not willing to change, the same will happen with their employees. When communicating the decision made by an organization to change, leaders are mandated with the task of airing this news to the employees.
Organizational culture determines the way managers and their juniors interact. Organizational culture is complex with varied definitions. It includes custom, knowledge, belief, morals, and personal capabilities. Examples of variables that can shape an organizational culture are value, gender, norms and morals which are held by the organization members.
Values are the basic principles that make up an organizational culture. Scholars argue that one is likely to scrutinize the values that are apprehended in a particular organizational culture and make some modifications.
In most cases, organizational values are stable and many people disagree with the fact that such values can be changed. In power cultures, where the assumption is that the boss has the sole wisdom and makes decisions single handedly, the man or woman in authority is the determinant of everything (Hansen & Gammel, 2008). Change in such organization is difficult to implement.
One of the most changes that are happening in the organizations today is the change of Information and telecommunication this is due to the continuous improvement and invention. The I.T. manager is the agent of change as far as the I.T. is concerned and thus should be the leader and pioneer of the change. Managing change is a process that starts from the problem identification and goes all along to monitoring the change.
There are also the slow learners that will need to be managed. This is where the I.T. manager comes into place. Other than ensuring that everything goes as planned, they give technological and emotional support to the entire team. They should have prior knowledge of the new system or they fully understand the system so that they are not seen as strangers to the same program that they are leading.
As the program unfolds, there are areas that need to be improved, to make the system more effective to the specific business and it is the I.T. manager who has the mandate to ensure that these are done at the right time with the expertise required. I.T. manager starts the change process from problem identification and sees the program adopted as well as its improvement (Barbara and Jocelyne, 2006).
Freedom and Sufficient Authority
Managers and leaders in an organization must realize when to bow and beg for corporation from the employees and when they have to use force. In case of a change, management should try to remain as calm as possible failure to which it will lead to repellence toward this change. Generally, human being likes to be involved in a decision particularly if they are going to be affected. If the management ignores this belief then the change will be repelled.
Leaders are the people who are mandated with the task of pioneering a business to its desired objectives. In transitional period the leader is the one who guides subordinates to the desired path.
They jointly make rules and policies to be followed in attaining the goals. The role of the leader in this case is to oversee the performance of the roles of subordinates and giving guidance in various areas. Change needs to be planned at all times when it is being implemented and conducted in such a way that it will be accepted in the business. The role of the leader in such case is the change agent.
His (charisma) is put to test. He is supposed to guide his subordinate in a way that will inspire them and give intellectual stimulation. He will consider what is referred to as individualized consideration whereby the focus will be on making each individual in the business comfortable with the change and be able to contribute to decisions as expected. One of the major hindrances to change is organizational culture.
A manager when pioneering a company from one wave of leadership to another should first of all understand the culture of the company. The use of opinion leaders is another way that a manager can use. Change is inevitable however it is one of the things that need to be planned by the concerned change agents since human being repel change but when well developed and implemented it is adopted freely (Barbara and Jocelyne, 2006).
Change requires to be supported by human and physical resources. If an organization is making change but it does not have the adequate resources to support the change then employees are likely to resist this change. Depending with the intended change, so does the required resources vary.
For example, a change to adopt information and technology in a firm is better supported by an information and technology expert. He is better positioned to handle questions and solve fears that employees might be having. In case the change initiator has some areas that he is not sure about, then he is likely to create anxiety which results in resistance.
Strategies for Overcoming Resistance
Kotter and Schlesinger, in 1979, suggested a strategy that organization should use to implement change effectively and reduce resistance to change. They described the process to be six staged strategy that is gradual and a move to the next is made when the former has been accepted and understood. The following are the steps involved;
Education and Communication Stage
Education and communicating of an intended change start form the point of change (i.e. the person who suggested a change) then it spreads to other people in the organization. Communication is to all the leaders, line managers, and finally staffs. There is no fixed way of communicating change however whichever the way it should aim at giving a full understanding of the required change.
This is where the agents of change realize that there is some process that has to be made. After this there is the looking for the probable solution to the problem that must be aligned with the mission and vision of the organization. The staffs that will be affected as well as the entire team should be given the detailed analysis of what the organization want to do.
At this stage the management brainstorms the effect of the program with the employees and let the employees learn how they will be affected. The initial people who should get the need for the wanted change are leaders at different levels. If the change came from the top most management it should then be communicated downwards to the leaders first. If it came from a middle stage, the communication must first go up. If there is any learning needed it is done at this stage.
Generally, to have a job well-done, it is of great importance that people involved start from the beginning. Change management is not an exemption. In this stage, a good context of the problem is grasped. It is only after getting the correct understanding of the problem that he/she can make a good decision (Laura-Georgeta, 2008).
Participation and Involvement
After everybody from the management to the low ranked people in an organization have understood the need for change (and how the change is going to affect their work) then the next stage is to have a hand on practical of the new way of doing things. This also offers the employees the time to have a hand on experience on the new system. They learn more about it and may even improve on it. If the program is seen as a better one then the final stage is carried out.
There is always no guarantee that the new system is going to be more effective than the old system, thus there is need for the system to be run as a pilot study alongside the old system. In this stage the manager should gather all relevant data and facts, this time from the employees. This is like the first evaluation and feed back to bring out areas that require an improvement. It is from the facts and data that he develops various alternatives of choices that can be used to solve the problem at hand.
The statistics will also be the ones that will support the final decision. There are various methods of collecting data; they include researching, brainstorming, and experimentation. It is the manager’s duty to choose the right method to adopt as different problems call for different methods. Depending on the problem, the people to be consulted differ. However, an effective manager should ensure that he/she consults those who matter and those who know.
Facilitation and Support
At this stage, at least all employees who were to be affected by the intended change have had a hand on experience on the new system of working. Though the change has been implemented, learning of how it operates is still ongoing. They are facilitated to consult those people who matter.
Consultation assists in making a more informed decision and assists in generating more alternatives of choice. Their opinions and viewpoints should be considered in the final decision making but the manager should always keep in mind that it is his/her responsibility to come up with the right decision. At this stage, all things are aligned to follow the new system and the old one is switched off. All the employees are supposed to adopt the system. Improvement of the system is the major thing that follows.
Negotiation and Motivation
People adjust differently and at this stage the focus is on people who are resisting change. Even after the operation and use of the system, chances are that there are people who have not been fully oriented into the new system. There may be various reasons for the same with the most common reason being attitude.
The leaders should use a micro approach. This is where they conduct meetings with the people who are resistant and try to negotiate on it that they are having a problem with. If this stage is overlooked, these people may influence others to revert to the old system or refuse the new system all together.
Manipulation and Co-option
At this stage, the organization is clear of hard cores to change; they may however be key employees in the organization with a vast knowledge and experience. They may be such a big asset that the organization has to devise means to accommodate them in the organization. They for example are given a key role in the change system where they will be evaluating the change outcomes; with time they will be changed and espouse the change.
Explicit and Implicit Coercion
This is the last stage in the change system. Depending with the way the organization has adopted to the change, the stage varies. Those people who are resisting change are ignored and forced to adopt the change. To the extremes, there may be people who cannot adopt the intended change, they should be demoted, fired or dismissed from the organization (Diamond, 1986).
General Rate Employee Turnover
In a firm with high staff turnover, the organizational culture created by the high turnover acts negatively to change. Employees to the organization have a perception that others moved from the organization when they realized that change was about to come. This will motivate the remaining employees to leave the organization.
Employees who do not have a future with an organization are hesitant to change as they believe that if the change comes for the good of the organization they will not benefit. The other situations that can be created by high staff turnover are employees who are not willing to move for one reason or another like old age. What the employees do is to refuse any change that the system can create as they want to protect their status quo.
When change has been implemented it needs to be supported by the management to see its success. Before and after making a change, management should undertake a survey on the prevailing methodologies that they are going to use in communicating the change. Every organization is special and so does the required methodology.
A survey of the current organizational culture, determining the key players who can directly influence change (negatively or positively) should be undertaken. When these people are identified they are targeted accordingly; the opinion leader’s supporters can be given a major role in change implementation where those likely to oppose and have influence are persuaded first.
A pilot study of the intended change should be conducted and if there is another organization using the same consulted as it can offer good information on the same. There is always no guarantee that the new system is going to be more effective than the old system, thus there is the need for the system to be run as a pilot study alongside the old system.
This also offers the employees the time to have a hand on experience on the new system. They learn more about it and may even improve on it. If the program is seen as a better one, then the final stage is executed. After the change is set in place the management should develop mechanisms to motivate and get feedback from the employees.
They should have strategies that facilitate consultation to people who exactly knows where a certain problem might have come from. This will assist the employees in proper adoption of the change. Offering no option of using the old system is another way through which the employees can be compelled to use the new system. This though must be done with great wisdom not to be interpolated by employees as a move to dictate change to them (Ford, Ford & D’amelio, 2008).
People are resistant to change; they are affected by the theory of inertia. With the current changes in technology, competition, change of customer preferences, innovations and inventions, change becomes inevitable. However, it is affected by the organizational culture, internal and external factors of the organization.
These factors include the communication efficiencies in the organization, leadership styles, and influence by others who have left the organization, fear and personal attributes like perception. The management should be actively involved in the change process since support is required from all corners. The main objective in a change management process is to facilitate better methods of doings things for a cost effective business. For an effective change, employees should be involved right from the start.
They should understand how the change is going to affect their life; this is through training and good leadership. Leaders are the people who are mandated with the task of pioneering a business to its desired objectives. In transitional period the leaders are the one who guides subordinates to the desired path.
They jointly make rules and policies to be followed in attaining the set goals. Before a company adopt a new system of doing things, there is need to appreciate that the new way can only succeed if the employees are positive about the change. This calls for a gradual process of implementing the much needed change. The organizational culture is one of the factors that can affect the change negatively or positively. The change agents should understand this well before implementing the intended change program.
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