Singh Et Al


This essay argues that change agents lack responsiveness in utilising and applying appropriate techniques in the change process leading to failure. Resistance to change is complex and fraught. Due to the predetermined word count only emphasis will be given to specific resistance to change stressors. Our aim is to provide succinct overview of literature on resistance to change, distinguish key factors that contribute and influence resistance and using appropriate methods to overcome resistance of change effectively.

Resistance to change also commonly referred to as change or organisational change is a social phenomenon in which employees perceive . According to (Jason Canning, citing Smith 2005) resistance is defined as the ‘movement from a current known state to a new, potentially unknown state’. Furthermore, resistance can manifest in many forms such as active, passive (Jason Canning, citing Smollan 2011) and aggressive resistance (Jason Canning, citing Singh et al. 2012) with numerous academics having differing opinions on the matter. Resistance to change can be exhibited across three levels; individual, group and organisational level (Jason Canning citing Singh et al, 2012).

There would be little to no relevance for organisational change in management where environments are stationary, employee’s skills and their abilities are up to date, and being incapable of deteriorating and everyday was to the exact same. However, the real wold is turbulent, constantly changing; workforce, technology and with economic shocks, organisations and stakeholders regularly undergo dynamic change to be effective in the industry (robins, et, al, 2017).

Singh et al. (2012) categorises three “levels” of resistance to change:the organisation level (resulting from power and conflict, functional orientation and culture);the group level (resulting from group norms and group thinking); and at an individual level (resulting from uncertainty, insecurity, selective perception and habit). Chawla and Kelloway (2004), however, classifies resistance in two components: attitudinal, a psychological rejection of the need to change, and behavioural, behaviours that reject an unwillingness to support the change. Employees do not actually resist change, resisting rather perceived threats to their sense of autonomy, integrity, ideals, loss of status, pay or comfort. Smith (2005) parallels this to some degree stating that, resistance can be exhibited when organisation change challenges values and perceived rights. Taking an alternative view, resistance is due to the effect of people’s brains resisting any form of change not directly linked to personal survival.

Bovey and Hede (2001) focus on the concept that resistance is a result of perception, stating that perception of change, and reduced resistance to change, is influenced by an individual’s personal growth and development.

However individuals. may feel threatened by barriers that would otherwise lead to an. openness to change. Knowledge barriers result from a lack of information, processes, people, etc. regarding a task or a change plan. This leads to a misunderstanding of the need for change or unawareness of the process. Skill barriers are missing abilities or skills necessary to implement the change or part of it, which result in a deficient performance. Will barriers cause a refusal to proceed with tasks in a change process because of contrary objectives or a lack of motivation. Institutional barriers: The values, regulations, and culture within an organisation, especially in public institutions, guide the employees and often hinder their development, which may lead to conformance. Therefore, change projects are not pursued. System barriers consist in unavailable resources like funds, workforce or time necessary to fulfil the tasks required by the change project, which result in inertia.

In addition to, more macro-level factors, each organisation includes a variety of different individuals. These individuals possess various dispositional and personality characteristics that have the potential to influence organisational attitudes and change factors.

During organizational change efforts, these individual differences may influence reactions to change and, ultimately, commitment to change. For example, individuals highly tolerant of ambiguity (Budner, 1962) should be better equipped to handle the uncertainty associated with organizational change (Judge et al., 1999). Similarly, individuals high in openness to experience (McCrae and Costa, 1986) and high self-monitors (Snyder, 1974) should react more positively to organizational change efforts. Thus, a complete model of change should address not only macro-level forces such as content, process, and contextual factors, but also micro-level factors such as individual differences and contextual barriers.

The level of individuals’ confidence in management’s ability to lead effective change, and their perceptions of whether management is attempting to do what is right for the organization along with management’s underlying motivations influences skepticism, cynicism, and resistance to change. An organisation’s prior change history influences internal contextual issues (Armenakis and Bedeian, 1999). For example, cynical feelings may result from a loss of faith in the change agents or a history of unsuccessful change attempts (Reichers et al., 1997). Thus, the presence of cynical feelings has the potential to negatively influence change success.

Recent work has also focused on clarifying the cognitive and affective dimensions of resistance to change. Oreg (2006, p. 76), in a study of an 800-employee defence industry organization involved in a merger of two key departments, described resistance as a “tridimensional (negative) attitude toward change” involving the interplay among cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions. The cognitive dimension involves how an individual conceptualizes or thinks about change – for example, what is the value of the change? Will the change benefit or harm my department, the organization, or me? Cognitive negative reactions or attitudes towards the change include a lack of commitment to the change and negative evaluations of the change. The affective dimension of individual reactions involves how one feels about the change. Affective reactions to the change include experiencing such emotions as elation, anxiety, anger, fear, enthusiasm, and apprehension. Affective negative reactions include stress, anxiety, and anger. The behavioural dimension of individual reactions involves how an individual behaves in response to change – for example: embracing it, complaining about it, and and/or sabotaging it. Logical & rational resistance due to disagreement with rational facts, arising from the perceived time and effort required to adjust to change including the acquisition of new job duties that must be learned. Employees may perceive themselves in a less desirable condition, or question the technical feasibility of change. Psychological & emotional resistance, based on emotion and attitudes to change, plays into fear of the unknown, mistrust of management, or feel their security and ego needs are being threatened. Tends to be a low tolerance to change, a dislike for it or of management due to lack of trust,as well as a desire to maintain the status quo. During change some employees may have trouble disengaging from the old organization, as they feel a sense of loss with having to “let go” of the old and highly-valued structures, methods and rules. This is especially so if people have been socialized to appreciate the values, norms and organizational history, and if beliefs and values are shared throughout the organization. Inevitably, there are positive aspects of the organizational culture that are lost with any change.Sociological/behavioural resistance as Change is perceived as a product of challenge to group interests, norms, and values. Our egos are fragile, and we often see change as threatening. Employees that see change as negative, cope by not thinking about it, lack of motivation to work, increased errors or mistakes, increased absenteeism’s and quitting.

Further complicating but, perhaps, better capturing the complexity of this concept of resistance to organizational change, Piderit (2000) suggests that individuals operate in all three dimensions (cognitive, affective, and behavioral) and simultaneously may be ambivalent in all three dimensions. For example, an individual may be both hopeful about the opportunities presented by change, but at the same time fearful about not being able to meet new expectations required by the change. And, the same individual may be enthusiastically agreeing to the change, while not focused on making the necessary changes to implement the initiative. Approach-avoidance theory (Knowles & Linn, 2004a) tells us that people can be simultaneously for (approach) and against (avoid) change. In this regard, research shows that people who voluntary undertake to quit smoking still have strong positive and negative beliefs and feelings about doing so (Petty & Cacioppo, 1996), and people with high-quality employment relationships have both positive and negative views toward change (Kim & Rousseau, 2006).

Because change is often associated with greater urgency, pressure, and risk than normal organization activities (Kotter, 1995), agents may be less tolerant of and more frustrated by actions habitually displayed by recipients. Labeling these actions resistance provides agents a readily accepted justification for operating in different and potentially more aggressive ways, thereby signalling that the game has changed and that certain behaviours will no longer be tolerated, at least during the change. If this is the case, then agents may assign "resistance" not because the actions are necessarily peculiar or harmful to the change but because of a desire to provide themselves with greater degrees of freedom in the ways they deal with recipients.

According to Kurt Lewin’s three-step model consisting of ‘unfreezing’, ‘changing’ and ‘refreezing’ it can effectively lead to readiness to change. Resistance is not inevitable, it can be anticipated and can be managed to some degree before or after its manifested. Readiness to change is achieved where stakeholders believe in the intentions of the change and the organisations ability to achieve those changes.The change agent's job, therefore, must surely include responsibility for the relationship with recipients, as well as the tactics of change implementation. This includes taking charge of the change dialogues to include inquiry that gets to the root of apparently resistive behaviours by bringing both agent and recipient background conversations to the fore and engaging in those actions needed to maintain and improve the agent-client relationship. Overcoming resistance, then, in the restructuring proposed here, becomes an outdated, one-sided concept that ignores agent sense making and the agent recipient relationship and suppresses or side lines the potential contribution of recipients.

Leaders viewed as being collaborative seem most effective, while those perceived as focusing only on facts and logic seem less effective, and finally those using power and coercion seem least effective in minimizing resistance. The strength of perceived employee-manager relationships and the interest of managers in the personal development of employees influence resistance – employees with positive perceptions also believe they have been provided more information about change initiatives, more opportunities for participation.

Change agents should encourage and allow opportunities for participation in the change process. Individuals’ perceptions of their participation in the change process influences their views of change, goal achievement, and resistance. By providing meaningful information about the change to individuals, soliciting their input and opinions, and encouraging involvement in the decision making process, change agents make the process of change acceptable and understandable for individuals.

The backbone for organisational excellence is trust which has been at the forefront in recent times. Trust between different stakeholders within an organisation has a positive role in taking the organisation to a higher level.The key success to any change is organisational trust, absence of which leads to failure of the same. Trust encompasses dimensions like honesty, integrity, reliability, consistency, loyalty and openness (butler and Cantrell, 1984).Trust is an amalgation of rational and emotional process comprising cognitive and affective elements. Employees are willing to go an extra mile if they feel trust is for their good and this confidence or believing comes from the goodwill of its leaders whom they believe are impartial. The main reasons why employees are reluctant is due to the fear of the unknown and due to uncertainty. One of the driving forces behind change is trust between the superior and the subordinate. Trust decreases the uncertainty level and thus helps in embracing change at a must speedy level. Trust in leadership makes it as a change enabler during the implementation of organisational change. Trust is a strong mediator between managerial communication and openness to change. Studies have shown that strong relationships between trust and employees readiness to change (Erturk). Acceptance level for change increases if there is a high level of trust (Rousseau and Tijoriwala, 1999). When there is a trust among the employees and the management, collective support during organisational change from the employees is higher which thereby leads to an easier transition

Practically, this finding emphasizes the need for change agents to carefully plan change efforts. Change agents should be conscious of the prior change attempts that have been implemented in the organization. The organization’s change history has the potential to influence the cynicism level among employees (Reichers et al., 1997) and, as our results indicate, the change beliefs held by employees. We would also expect cynicism to mediate the relationship between other individual characteristics and management’s attempts to prepare employees for change.Considering the above discussion, findings suggest that process has the potential to counteract the negative consequences of employee cynicism. Individuals high in cynicism may be more likely to commit to organizational change if they have been properly prepared for the change. Conversely, individuals low in cynicism will likely resist committing to change if management has not properly prepared them for change.


An individual may resist change due to their perception of the consequences of the change, the fact that the change does not align with theirs or their group’s concept of values, or that the results of the change are not believed to be important. The reality, unfortunately, is that it is actually a combination of many factors, some of which may be contradictory, that are influencing an individual’s perception and, therefore, their ability to support the change. These complexities can result in misunderstanding. Many organisations, rather than seeking to understand why the resistance exists, or viewing it as a potential result of issues with the change programme, simply try to stamp out the resistance. However, attempting to control resistance without understanding and addressing the underlying causes, simply has the potential to create even more resistance.