This article throws light upon the two main reasons for resistance to change. The reasons are: 1. Individual Resistance to Change 2. Organisational Resistance to Change.
Reason # 1. Individual Resistance to Change:
Individuals prefer to maintain status quo rather than accept new ways of doing things.
They resist change because of the following reasons:
There is a sense of insecurity amongst people as they move from one post or location to the other. They are uncertain about new job requirements, new environment and new work groups and, therefore, resist change. They become habitual of working in the present situation and feel that moving to new location will disturb their comfort. It requires adjustment with which they are not comfortable as it is related to insecurity.
(b) Social factors:
When people move to new work environment, they suffer from a psychological set back as they do not want to leave their friends in the existing social environment. They find it difficult to cope with new environment. Strong influence of informal groups becomes a source of resistance to change. Other factors include loss of power, status, security, unfamiliarity with new work procedures and lack of confidence.
(c) Economic factors:
People resist change as they feel they will get less pay due to automation and technology upgradation at the new place. It may require less workers and, therefore, less monetary benefits. Change from labour intensive to capital intensive techniques of production creates fear of job security amongst employees. Therefore, they do not welcome such jobs even if employers assure them of job security.
(d) Lack of knowledge about causes of change:
If change is made without explaining the reasons for change, employees will not know how and to what extent such changes will affect their lives and behaviour. Employees resist changes if reasons for change are unknown to them.
(e) Lack of faith:
Lack of trust and faith in managers often creates a feeling amongst subordinates that change is being initiated at the cost of their interest. Thus, they resist to accept change.
(f) Threat to power and influence:
Change which re-allocates authority-responsibility relationships may take away power from some members and give it to others. The power of status and position is a strong influence that keeps a person attached to his job. Change with threat to power and status is not welcomed by people.
(g) Low levels of tolerance:
Change requires new learning by employees. New behaviours and skills have to be developed. If people do not want to learn new procedures and techniques, it results in resistance to change.
(h) Different perceptions:
Managers introduce change because they perceive it necessary to improve organisational efficiency. Others may resist change because they perceive the situation differently. The existing state of equilibrium is not disturbed because of different perceptions and change is not enforced in the organisation.
(i) Peer pressure:
People resist change because their fellow workers oppose it. They obey the group norms for the fear of social boycott.
Reason # 2. Organisational Resistance to Change:
Change is resisted at the organisational level also.
Some of the reasons why organisations resist change are:
(a) Organisation structure:
An autocratic or bureaucratic structure where authority-responsibility relationships and work are divided into well-defined units, employees’ participation in decision-making is minimum and information follows a vertical path is not responsive to change.
(b) Economic costs:
Huge investment is required in plant and machinery, building and other equipment’s to conform to changed operations. Resources are generally scarce and organisations, therefore, may not be initially responsive to change.
(c) Organisational commitments:
If organisations enter into long-term agreements with third parties, say 7-10 years, they are restrained from introducing change, even if desirable, unless agreed by the parties concerned.
(d) Sunk costs:
Today’s environment is changing very fast, be it technology, consumers’ tastes or environmental policies. Huge amount of investment is made in assets which can be recovered after the assets are put to productive use in the gestation period.
If, during this period, changes are required, it may not be feasible as assets cannot be replaced fast. This may, however, be possible if cost-benefit analysis warrants that costs of not introducing the change (sales lost) is more than the cost of investment in new assets.
Overcoming Resistance to Change:
Change is desirable for organisational development. Resistance to change should, therefore, be overcome. It gives managers an opportunity to re-examine their proposals of change for their effective implementation. Six ways of overcoming resistance to change are identified by Kotter and Schlesinger.
1. Education and communication: .
An effective way to reduce resistance to change is to plan the change and communicate its benefits to organisational members. People should be educated and trained to accept the change. Training helps in changing their attitude towards change and processes involved therein.
New skills, new relationships and new value systems have to be developed and communicated to everyone so that people understand:
1. The nature and need for change.
2. How it will be beneficial for individuals and the organisation.
3. How and when it will be implemented.
Managers announce the need for change, explain the ways of implementing and train people to deal with new procedures to reduce resistance to change.
Communication changes the attitude of people towards change and prepares them to develop new relationships. This promotes easy acceptance of change.
2. Participation and involvement:
If people affected by implementation of change are involved in framing the change process, they will promote its planning and implementation without resistance. When people are involved in designing the change, they understand the need for change, have less uncertainty about the impacts of change on their economic and social values and, therefore, will be more committed to their implementation. The change agent should allow the members to participate in the implementation of change process and give due regard to their opinions in order to promote commitment to change.
Participation — reduces resistance to change
— increases understanding to change
— promotes thinking on interpretation of change and giving ideas to make it productive.
3. Facilitation and support:
If employees feel they cannot perform according to new procedures and methods, managers should provide them moral support, advise them and create a cordial and friendly atmosphere of understanding. This promotes commitment amongst employees to accept and implement the change process smoothly.
4. Negotiation and agreement:
When these measures to reduce resistance to change remain ineffective, managers make negotiations and agreements with the employees. It involves sharing of profits by management and workers through changed mode of operations. Sometimes, managers also obtain written consent from the resistors to accept the change.
5. Manipulation and cooptation:
When people resist change, managers may adopt a manipulative policy. They present selective information to resistors to gain their confidence and acceptance to change. Under cooptation, managers select the most influential person from the group of resistors, give him a seemingly important role in designing the change process (the information may not be important from manager’s point of view but may carry value for that person as leader of the group) and reduce resistance to change. Thus, the change agent and resistors work together on actual mechanism of the change to promote commitment to the change programme.
6. Explicit and implicit coercion:
As a measure of last resort, when these methods of overcoming resistance to change remain ineffective, managers force implementation of change. They use methods like demotions, transfers and dismissals to make people accept the change. However, such change does not have a lasting impact. Future changes shall be subject to more rigorous resistance by the employees.
Besides above measures of overcoming resistance to change as suggested by Kotter and Schlesinger, the following additional measures can also be useful:
1. Initiate change only if necessary:
Managers should not announce change just for the sake of it. Changes should be introduced only if required and beneficial for the organisation.
2. Build trust and confidence:
When people resist change because they lack confidence and trust in managers, managers should build trust by openly communicating with the employees. They should give them timely and reliable information and explain the benefits of proposed changes. They should act as democratic leaders and gain willing support of members to accept change. Such measures considerably help to reduce resistance to change.
3. Group contact:
Members are usually bonded by strong forces of groups in the organisation. Group members exert considerable influence on each other which also affects acceptance or resistance to change. If managers want to overcome individual resistance to change, they should contact representative members of the group, influence them to accept the need and benefits of change better than explaining to individuals. Group contact helps in maintaining better control over the change process.
4. Job security:
Resistance to technological changes which creates fear of loss of job can be overcome by guaranteeing job security to employees. They need to be told that changes will provide them better work environment and financial benefits and not replace them.
5. Force field analysis:
Managers should conduct force field analysis, determine the driving and restraining forces to change, increase the driving forces, reduce the restraining forces and reach a new stage of equilibrium; that is, the desired level of change.
6. Change in organization structure:
Changing the organisation structure from bureaucratic (which is not receptive to change) to socio-technical system, where focus is both on task and relationship between the technical system and people helps to overcome resistance to change.