Change is a common feature in organizations. The capacity to handle such changes is the core competence of success in organizations (Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362).
Over the last two decades, the main drivers of organizational changes have been technological advancements, stiff competition and fluctuations in the global economy. This has led to exploration of mechanisms for achieving competitive advantage through increased radical forms of change (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 50).
Human resources management is considered very significant in enforcing change in organizations. This is partly due to the fact that employees are the custodian of organizational values, which is one of the principal strategic elements determining companies’ potential (Kiefer, 2002, p. 40).
Nowadays, companies are embracing new concepts in human resources management to enhance their competitive edge (Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362). Some of these concepts focus on ways of overcoming various factors contributing to resistance to change (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 52).
The paper will explore the principal factors contributing to individual’s resistance to change. The paper will also analyze a real-life case related to change resistance.
Factors contributing to individual resistance to change
The general overview of various aspects affecting individuals’ resistance to change in organizations has been developed out of the need to comprehend business dynamics and enhance efficiency (Baack, 2012, p. 45). Numerous studies have been conducted to identify a wide range of factors affecting employees’ resistance to change.
The most common factors include involvement of general employees, communication procedures used, availability of knowledge or information, employees’ academic qualification, and confidence in the top leadership. According to Weick and Quinn (1999, p. 370), employee involvement and open communication process enhance trust and, therefore, affect an individual’s resistance to change.
Reichers, Wanous and Austin (1997, p. 52) emphasized that change in an organization can only be attained when the resistance is minimized. This can only be achieved by involving workers in the change process. The involvement gives them a sense of ownership. In addition, employee involvement enhances the level of confidence between the workers and the managers.
Coch and French (1948) conducted a study on change resistance among workers in a clothing company who carried out tasks that were repeatedly changing.
The clothing company witnessed considerable resistance of the employees to the change, which was manifested in a number of ways, for instance, high rate of employee turnover and aggression towards the management. However, when the management decided to involve the workers in the change process the level of resistance went down.
Kotter (1995, p. 63) highlighted the significance of the open communication policy in change management. He argued that such policy enables workers to express their fears and dislikes, and finally get their approval. Weick and Quinn (1999) explained that the communication process is very significant in cultivating trust between the workers and the management. This is because open communication policy produces a joint effort.
The quality of information provided to the employees is also a major factor contributing to resistance to change (Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 373). According to Weick and Quinn (1999, p. 368), lack of legitimate and reliable information can increase the level of resistance to change among employees. This often occurs due to the fear of unknown impact of change and lack of understanding of the need for change.
Reichers, Wanous and Austin (1997, p. 55) argued that employees indecision and misinterpretation of the change process or the need for change are the main factors that promote resistance to change.
They explained that the above factors depend on the quality of information available to the employees. Therefore, legitimate and dependable information minimizes the fear of unknown and enhances understanding of the need for change.
Coch and French (1948, p. 515) explained that an organization can only cope with change when there is a supportive environment and freedom from threats. This can only be realized when the employees and the management have cultivated a strong bond of trust. For this reason, increase in trust between the employees and the management minimizes the resistance to change.
Trust entails issues related to integrity, reliability and honesty (Coch & French, 1948, p. 516). Baack (2012, p. 155) showed that lack of confidence in the agents of change is the principle factor contributing to change resistance. He also identified lack of trust between the employees and the management as a factor that enhances change resistance.
Last but not least, the level of education also affects the way employees respond to changes in an organization. Generally, highly learned employees are open-minded, innovative and willing to embrace change (Baack, 2012, p. 157).
Real-life case of individuals resisting change
In the late 2009, Green Sugar Company introduced the Sun System, a computerized accounting package. The package was introduced by the management without consultation. As a result, there was a general outrage and opposition to the new system since most workers had little knowledge about it. My cousin, a junior accountant in the company, felt that it was another scheme by the management to lay-off workers.
This is because many workers had been laid-off since the new management took over the reign of leadership. Therefore, his resistance to the new system was because he did not trust the top leadership as well as did not understand the significance of the new system. Hence, his resistance was caused by internal factors. Nonetheless, the management had good intentions but only used the wrong approach.
Application of Kotter’s theory for change to overcome the resistance
In order to overcome such resistance, the company should apply Kotter’s eight steps for successful change management. These steps include creating a sense of urgency, forming a strong coalition, creating a vision, communicating the vision, empowering employees, developing short-term goals, consolidating improvements, and institutionalizing the change (Kotter, 1996, 88).
First, the management should establish a sense of urgency because of the huge losses incurred due to the inefficiency of the old system. The establishment of a sense of urgency would prompt necessary action. Second, they should inform and educate to accept the change all the parties involved in the process.
Third, they should make sure that the proposal is in-line with the company’s vision or create a new vision to provide direction. Fourth, the vision should be communicated to all the employees. Fifth, all the employees should be given a role to play in the change process. Sixth, the proposal should incorporate short-term goals to ensure that the process is in accordance with the plan.
Seventh, all the improvements should be consolidated and the impetus maintained. Lastly, the system should be institutionalized after the final analysis. The plan should be considered to have worked when the level of resistance reduces and employees owning up to the new system. In addition, employees should have full knowledge of the new system and understand its significance to the organization.
The capacity to handle changes is the core competence of success in organizations. However, many employees often resist change. Numerous studies have been conducted to identify a wide range of factors that contribute to employees’ resistance to change.
The most common factors include involvement of general employees, communication procedures used, availability of knowledge or information, employees academic qualification, and confidence in the top leadership. Kotter provided key steps of overcoming such resistance.
Baack, D. (2012). Organizational Behavior. San Diego, CA: Bridge point Education, Inc.
Coch, L. & French, J. (1948). Overcoming Resistance to Change. Human Relations, 512-532.
Kiefer, T. (2002). Understanding the emotional experience of organizational change: Evidence from a merger. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4, 39–61.
Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73 (2), 59-67.
Kotter, J. (1996). Leading Change. London: Harvard Business School Press.
Reichers, A., Wanous, J. & Austin, T. (1997). Understanding and managing cynicism about organizational change. Academy of Management Review, 11(1), 48–59.
Weick, K. & Quinn, E. (1999). Organizational change and development. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 361–86.