Resistance to Change

1 January 2017

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The organization is a partner of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation. *Related content and download information correct at time of download. Resistance to organizational change: the role of cognitive and affective processes Wayne H. Bovey Bovey Management (Certified Consultants), Queensland, Australia Andy Hede University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia Keywords Organizational change, Resistance, Individual behaviour, Organizational behaviour Introduction

Organizational change causes individuals to experience a reaction process (Kyle, 1993). Scott and Jaffe (1988) describe the process as consisting of four phases, namely: initial denial, resistance, gradual exploration, and eventual commitment. Resistance is a natural and normal response to change because change often involves going from the known to the unknown (Coghlan, 1993; Steinburg, 1992; Myers and Robbins, 1991; Nadler, 1981; Zaltman and Duncan, 1977). Not only do individuals experience change in different ways (Carnall, 1986), they also differ in their ability and willingness to adapt to change (Darling, 1993).

This paper investigates whether a relationship exists between an individual’s cognitive and affective processes and their willingness to adapt to major organizational change. This topic is important because the failure of many corporate change programs is often directly attributable to employee resistance (Maurer, 1997; Spiker and Lesser, 1995; Regar et al. , 1994; Martin, 1975). For example, a longitudinal study of 500 large organizations found employee resistance was the most frequently cited problem encountered by management when implementing change (Waldersee and Griffiths, 1997).

More than half the organizations in that survey experienced difficulties with employee resistance. Successfully managing resistance is a major challenge for change initiators and is arguably of greater importance than any other aspect of the change process (O’Connor, 1993). Management usually focuses on the technical elements of change with a tendency to neglect the equally important human element which is often crucial to the successful implementation of change The research register for this journal is available at http://www. mcbup. com/research_registers

Abstract Most previous studies of organizational change and resistance take an organizational perspective as opposed to an individual perspective. This paper investigates the relationship between irrational ideas, emotion and resistance to change. Nine organizations implementing major change were surveyed providing data from 615 respondents. The analysis showed that irrational ideas are positively correlated with behavioural intentions to resist change. Irrational ideas and emotion together explain 44 percent of the variance in intentions to resist.

Also outlines an intervention strategy to guide management in developing a method for approaching resistance when implementing major change. (Levine, 1997; Huston, 1992; Steier, 1989; Arendt et al. , 1995; Tessler, 1989; New and Singer, 1983). As Nord and Jermier (1994) express it, resistance is resisted rather than being purposively managed. Therefore, in order to successfully lead an organization through major change it is important for management to balance both human and organization needs (Spiker and Lesser, 1995; Ackerman, 1986).

Organizational change is driven by personal change (Band, 1995; Steinburg, 1992; Dunphy and Dick, 1989). Individual change is needed in order for organizational change to succeed (Evans, 1994). This paper reports on a study that aimed to identify, measure and evaluate how human elements including cognitive and affective processes are associated with an individual’s level of resistance to organizational change. Conceptual framework The conceptual model developed for this paper is illustrated in Figure.

It provides a framework for empirical testing and consists of four constructs (in bold type) namely perception, cognitions, affect and resistance. The operationalized variable for each construct is also included in the model (in italic type). Figure 1 is an illustration of human processes described in the literature. For example, Schlesinger (1982) in his psychoanalytic paper entitled “Resistance as process”, outlines classical theory favouring the sequence: interpretation, cognition, affect and action. Ellis and Harper (1975) state that humans have four basic processes, namely, to erceive or sense, to reason or think, to feel or emote, and to move or act.

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