Discuss both of the following questions:
Why is resistance to change frequently demonised by managers, as a problem that must be managed?
What are the ethical implications of this and how else can resistance be understood?
Use examples from your own organisation, or other sources, to illustrate your essay.
Resistance to Change
What is organisational change and why is it required?
The spread of globalisation has had a great impact on the business world. The global business world has decreased in its size and organisations throughout the world are openly dealing with each other and there is constant movement of supplies, goods and resources from one place to another. This increase in cross-border communication has also increased the level of competition in every single industry. Business organisations are competing with each other on a global scale and it has become very difficult for them to achieve market competencies based on resources or operations (Bateh, Mario, & James, 2013). Furthermore, the internal and external environment factors, to which the business organisations are vulnerable are changing at such a pace that business organisations are being forced to introduce changes in their operations and processes in order to compete with the latest trends and sustain in the market. Thus, organisational change has become a necessary evil and is giving a tough time to the managers of business organisation.
As discussed above, organisational changes are giving a tough time to business organisations and managers. Organisational changes are not just difficult to understand but are even more difficult to implement. There have been so many organisations that have miserably failed in their efforts to implement a workplace change and have lost their entire market share to their competitors (Hon, Bloom, & Crant, 2011).
Resistance to change, in simple words, is the reaction that the individuals in an organisation show when they perceive a change in their organisation as a threat to their status, work life, personal life or the job itself (Georgalis, Samaratunge, & Lu, 2014). Resistance to change can occur due to a number of reasons and can make it impossible for the managers to successfully implement a change in the workplace.
Resistance to change is one of the prime causes behind the failure of change management programs and can occur because of the following reasons:
First of all, it is a natural tendency of human beings to resist a change. Human beings, by nature, prefer to follow a straight up routine and are habitual of establishing a comfort zone for themselves over a period of time. When they come to know about a change program and how it may alter their work lives or personal lives, they perceive it is a threat to their comfort zone and show resistance to the change program (Quast, 2012). Therefore, a certain amount of resistance in always offered to change programs by the employees because of the natural tendency that human beings have towards a change in their lives. For example, Nokia, one of the leading mobile phone companies in the world, failed to implement a change because it was overconfident with the market position that it had held for such a long time and did not want to come out of its comfort zone (Atozgossips, 2016).
Secondly, a fear of the unknown is another reason that motivates the employees in an organisation to resist workplace changes. In a lot of cases, it has been found that when employees are not aware about the reasons because of which a change is being implemented, the implications of a change management program or what are the objectives behind introducing a change, they are more likely to resist a change rather than accepting it and making it happen (Stark, 2010). Another interconnected reason, which makes employees resist workplace changes, is the lack of communication in the organisation. In a number of cases, it has been seen that if the managers of an organisation fail to establish proper communication channels to keep the employees informed and engaged, the chances of resistance to change increase exponentially. Thus, fear of the unknown and lack of communication are two more reasons that give rise to resistance to change.
Reasons for the Occurrence of Resistance to Change
Thirdly, organisational politics and culture can also be a factor that can lead to resistance to change. In a number of organisations, it has been found that the internal climate, bureaucracy and the politics in the workplace can lead to a change being resisted by the employees (TANNER, 2017). Politics and bureaucracy can have a negative impact on the employees and they can show resistance to a change management program if it has been initiated by some other group member.
Fourthly, loss of control is another key reason that has been found to have its impact on the employees and also leading to resistance to change management programs. Employees usually have familiar work routine and while working in their job roles, they establish a control over their work environment over a period of time (RICK, 2011). When a change management program asks them to bring about changes in their work and forces them to lose their control, the employees feel powerless and confused and demonstrate resistance to change.
Fifthly, lack of competencies is another reason that makes employees resist changes. This is definitely one of the uncommon reasons known for resistance to change but is definitely important to be considered. A number of times, it has been found that the employees, who do not have the desired competencies to make a transition from one position to another, resist workplace changes because they think that they will not be able to fulfil the expectations of the company. Some of the employees can also be found saying that they already have the desired competencies and they do not have to learn anything new to perform their jobs or that they have already been performing their jobs in the best possible manner so what is the need for a change. All these statements demonstrate their resistance to change.
Lastly, lack of reward is another major reason that makes employees resist workplace changes. In most of the cases, related to change management, it has been found that the management of business organisations forget to count the importance of motivating the employees to accept the changes that they want to introduce (Adenle, 2011). Change programs can only be possibly implemented when the employees perceive that there are certainly some rewards associated with it or if it would help them in achieving something in their career. In lack of a reward system, the employees do not feel the need to change their work lives or the way in which they perform their jobs and show resistance to change.
In an organisational setup, power can be defined as the ability or the extent to which an employee can exercise his or her control over the others or can have an influence on important organisational matters. Higher a person sits in the hierarchy of the organisation, higher is the power that he or she would enjoy over the others and in important matters of the organisation.
There have been a lot studies carried out to study the effect of power on the resistance that is offered to organisational change management programs. It has been found that, most of the times, it is the people with power in an organisation that are the root causes of resistance to change. One of the prime reasons for the occurrence of resistance to change is the fear of loss or power in important matters of the company. When a change management program is on its way, people with power in an organisation develop a fear that their power or authority in the organisation will be undermined because of the changes that the management would bring in the organisation. In certain change programs, where the entire organisation undergoes a transition, there can be a complete restructuring of the organization under process. A corporate restructuring is a major change that can eliminate certain important job positions and can also limit the power that they have In such a scenario, business organisations can expect a high level of resistance from the powerful people or the people who are at some top managerial positions in the corporate structure (Webster, n.d.). The sole reason behind the resistance is that they have a fear of their power being undermined or that they would lose the authority that they enjoy over the other people. For example, in ABC Hospitality services, one of the leading Indian fast food chain, it was once planned that the entire workforce would receive work orders or duties from a centralised server so that assigning day-to-day duties to the employees could be made easier. The managers of that particular fast food chain became so insecure that they started planning to stop the change from being implemented.
Power and Resistance in Organisational Change
Therefore, it is not wrong to say that resistance to change, in most of the cases, is power driven in an organisational setup. Powerful people in an organisation can easily disrupt an organisation’s attempts to implement workplace changes whenever they perceive a threat to their power and status. Thus, power and the ability to resist workplace changes are directly proportional to each other and the change agents should carefully deal with the powerful people of the organisation.
Power in itself is a term that spreads a certain degree of negativity because its somewhat the tendency of human beings to misuse the power that is vested into their positions. In an organisational setup, it requires a lot of time and capability to reach a stage where a person can enjoy a powerful status and an authority over the others. Power is not just about status but it is about managing others and contributing towards the general good (Sargent, Sargent, & Hardy, 2010). With great power, there also comes a great responsibility.
People who resist workplace changes just because they perceive them as a threat to their power or status are acting unethically towards their juniors, seniors, company and the entire stakeholders. It becomes an important duty of an organisation’s powerful people that they lead the change by engaging themselves into it and helping their company in designing a change management program that would be beneficial for the company as well as for the stakeholders. Rather than resisting workplace changes, people with power should be the one facilitating it and motivating others to help the company in implementing the desired changes.
Whenever the scenario in the market changes, business organisations have to change as well. Business organisations are forced to change in order to survive and it is not a random decision to implement changes. When this happens, business organisations expect and rely on the people on top level positions to take an initiative and help them in designing and implementing a change program that would make them eve more competitive and also prove to be beneficial for the employees (Antonellis, 2014). On the other hand, some powerful people behave unethically not only towards the company but also towards the employees by resisting the changes, which could have had positive outcomes for all the stakeholders. Therefore, from an ethical point of view, powerful people who offer resistance to change programs should do it only after they have carefully analysed the nature of the change and if it can have a negative effect on the organisation as a whole.
It is not just difficult for the employees but is even more difficult for business organisations to cope with change management programs. Business organisations heavily rely upon their human resources and on the managerial level positions of their company to help them in achieving success in whatever strategies they implement. Thus, it becomes an ethical duty of the employees to avoid resisting changes unless they are actually negative in nature or can have a negative impact on the organisation in the future.
Adenle, C. (2011, July 26). 12 Reasons Why Employees Resist Change in the Workplace . Retrieved October 9, 2017, from catherinescareercorner.com: https://catherinescareercorner.com/2011/07/26/12-reasons-why-employees-resist-change-in-the-workplace/
Antonellis, P. J. (2014, June 23). How Politics and Ethics Can Affect Change Management . Retrieved October 8, 2017, from www.fireengineering.com: https://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-167/issue-6/features/how-politics-and-ethics-can-affect-change-management.html
Atozgossips. (2016, May 27). The Case Study of NOKIA Change Management . Retrieved October 9, 2017, from atozgossips.com: https://atozgossips.com/2016/05/27/the-case-study-of-nokia-change-management/
Bateh, J., Mario, C. E., & James, F. E. (2013). Employee Resistance To Organizational Change. International Journal of Management & Information Systems, 17(2).
Georgalis, J., Samaratunge, R., & Lu, N. K. (2014, May 23). Change process characteristics and resistance to organisational change: The role of employee perceptions of justice . Australian Journal of Management .
Hon, A. H., Bloom, M., & Crant, J. M. (2011, August 2). Overcoming Resistance to Change and Enhancing Creative Performance . Journal of Management , 2017(October), 9.
Quast, L. (2012, November 26). Overcome The 5 Main Reasons People Resist Change . Retrieved October 9, 2017, from www.forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2012/11/26/overcome-the-5-main-reasons-people-resist-change/#378dcf103efd
RICK, T. (2011, May 23). TOP 12 REASONS WHY PEOPLE RESIST CHANGE . Retrieved October 9, 2017, from www.torbenrick.eu: https://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/change-management/12-reasons-why-people-resist-change/
Sargent, L. D., Sargent, L. D., & Hardy, C. (2010, March 25). Managing Organizational Change: Negotiating Meaning and Power-Resistance Relations . Organizational Science, 22(1), 22-41.
Stark, P. B. (2010, January 12). Why Employees Resist Change . Retrieved October 9, 2017, from www.peterstark.com: https://www.peterstark.com/why-employees-resist-change/
TANNER, R. (2017, February 1). Organizational Change: 8 Reasons Why People Resist Change . Retrieved October 9, 2017, from managementisajourney.com: https://managementisajourney.com/organizational-change-8-reasons-why-people-resist-change/
Webster, M. (n.d.). Managing Power-Driven Resistance to Change . Retrieved October 8, 2017, from www.leadershipthoughts.com: https://www.leadershipthoughts.com/managing-power-driven-resistance-to-change/
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