Identify How Employees Resist To Organizational Change Management Essay

The purpose of this paper is to review recently published research to identify how employees resist to organizational change and which change strategies could be used in order to minimize employee resistance to organizational change. In the literature review it is discussed why employees show resistance to change. Communication and Participation are selected for discussion as significant change strategies after identifying various other change strategies that can be adopted by the organization to minimize the level of resistance.

At the end of this seminar paper, the limitations of this study are discussed and recommendations are made for future researches.

Keywords: Organizational Change, Change strategies, Employee Resistance,


‘Organizations today are facing more changes than ever before’ (Conner, 1992, cited in Wanberg and Bans, 2000). As they strive to more competitive edge, they are reorganizing, downsizing, focusing on incremental changes and radical changes through the implementation of new technologies. The success rate of change initiatives is dependent on diverse number of obstacles. Among them the main obstacle to organizational change achievement is human resistance. Employees’ reactions to change are considered critical for the success of change effort (Piderit, 2000). Bovey and Hede (2001) cited numerous studies including one of 500 Australian organizations indicating resistance as the most common problem faced by management in implementing change. Despite this claim that it is difficult for the individuals to cope the change that is why they try to resist. Human resistance may be the main hurdle in the success of organizational change. Researchers and practitioners have been working on employee resistance to organizational change from the decades. But they may be defining the phenomenon inconsistently and studying it incompletely. It has been reported that resistance is likely to occur because the change process involves moving form known to unknown (Coghlan, 1993; Steinburg, 1992; Myers and Robbins, 1991; Nadler, 1981, cited in Bovey and Hede, 2001).

Each individual resist the change in a different manner, it is important to assess how individuals resist changing and why so that manager could select an appropriate way to overcome resistance (Kotter and Schlesinger 1979). Much of the organizations face difficulties with employee resistance. Successfully managing resistance is one of the major challenges faced by change initiators and is the more important aspect of change process. Different researcher proposed different change strategies that would help in successfully implementing change process and could also be helpful in minimizing employee resistance to change. Focus of this study is to identify different change strategies and to highlight those change strategies that play major role in minimizing much of the resistance by the employees.

Problem Statement

In support of organizational change practice, this study attempts to answer the question: Which change strategies are most helpful in minimizing employee resistance to change?

.Scope of Study

Much of this paper will cover how employees resist to organizational change and which change strategies are most beneficial in minimizing the employee resistance in the course of change implementation. The goal of this paper is to provide change agents and managers with the theoretical insight to employee resistance to organizational change and practical guidance in dealing and ultimately minimizing employee resistance to organizational change, based on previous research.

Literature Review

Resistance to Change

Change is defined as a move from the present current state to some desired future state and a denial to that movement is said to be the resistance. The studies discussed under this subject suggest a comprehensive definition of employee resistance to organizational change. Resistance to change is a concept explaining why efforts to organizational change fall short of expectations and usually fail. The word “Resistance” is always considered a negative connotation. Organizational change often incurs two types of responses: positive or negative, supportive and resistant etc. Resistance is mainly due to the fact that key interests of employees get at risk during the change process. The key concerns of the individuals upon the announcement of the change that may affect resistance to change may include threats and benefits of change, personal capabilities to accomplish change (Dennis G. Erwin & Andrew N. Garman, 2009).Dianne and Amrik (1998) explained resistance to change has been recognized as an important factor that can influence the success or failure of organizational change effort. Resistance if not properly handled leads towards the failure of the organizational change. So resistance is defined as the negative employee attitude with counter-productive behaviors.

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Resistance among employees arises because of the negative feelings they have about the change and these negative feelings arise because all the information regarding change process is not properly communicated to them by the management themselves, their only source of information is either word of mouth or local newspapers. So because of these sources of information a feeling arise in them that management itself is not very clear about the change and its objectives and as a result this causes them to resist (Tony proctor & Ioanna Doukakis 2003).

Change Strategies

Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) identified six strategies to organizational change such as Education, Participation, Facilitation, Negotiation, Manipulation, and Coercion. Education means informing and communicating the desired changes and giving reasons for them. Participation is to involve the potential resisters and even employees in designing change plan and implementing change. Facilitation is a process that includes training employees in new skills and giving them emotional support by listening to them. Negotiation is offering incentives to potential resisters. Manipulation means involving the selective use of information and conscious structuring of events. And finally coercion is basically forcing people to accept change and threatening them.

Focus of this study to identify those strategies that play a major role in minimizing employee resistance to change. Out of Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) mentioned strategies, communication and participation will be the focal point here. Purpose is to study the role of these two strategies (Communication and participation) in minimizing employee resistance to change. These strategies as factors of change process influence individual attitudes and resistances toward change.


Different researchers defined the concept of change communication differently. For example, Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) defined communication as informing and communicating the desired changes and giving reasons for them. According to Lewis (2006), Communication about the change is dissemination of information that is the dispersal of knowledge, ideas, training, facts and respects or directives of action concerning the change.

Oreg (2006) defined communication as the amount and quality of information that is provided to employees about the change. Van Dam et al. (2007) defined communication as providing information about the change is to keep employees knowledgeable of anticipated events such as specific changes that will occur, the consequences of the changes and new roles of the employees.

Effective communication is the main reason for the success of organizations as it helps the managers to get employees involved in the particular task of change and thus helping them in implementing change successfully (Mary Welch & Paul R. Jackson, 2007).

It has been suggested that inadequate information leads to more uncertainty about specific changes because it will give rise to feelings such as how change will affect their job and organization or how to respond to that change (Milliken, 1987, cited in Wanberg & Banas, 2000). It has been proposed that in order to improve employee’s attitude towards organizational change, information about the change helps to reduce employee anxiety and uncertainty (K.I. Miller & Monge, 1985; Schweiger & DeNisis, 1991, cited in Wanberg & Banas, 2000).

Lewis (2006) defined that communication is critical in the process of creating and articulating vision; channeling feedback between implementers, key decision makers, and key users; providing social support; forestalling and constructive use of resistance and assessing and promoting results. Study of Lewis describes how employee experience communication of change messages; the types of channels they use to communicate with implementers; and finally the qualities of implementers’ change communication that employees associated with the change outcomes. Employees perceive the communication about the change differently than do implementers themselves. Implementers usually have clear idea about the change process as they themselves the change agents whereas employees have lesser knowledge about the change program, formal goals and progress of the change.

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Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) defined participation is a process to involve the potential resisters and even employees in designing change plan and implementing change. Lewis (2006) defined participation as employees’ cooperation during the change initiatives is the key to success to organizational changes. It has been argued that participation lead to qualitatively better strategic decision (Kim and Mauborgne, 1998, cited in Lines, 2004).

Giangreco and Peccei (2005) reported that more participation of employees in change process is associated with more positive attitudes towards the change and it will minimize resistance to change.

Wanberg & Banas (2000) proposed that higher level of participation in the change process is related to more positive view of the change. Higher level of involvement is associated with a view that changes are beneficial.

Lewis (2006) explained that Participatory structures in organization that value the input of participants and that allow them opportunities to influence decision making are more likely to succeed in reaching the desired goals. So, employees who feel that they have more participatory opportunities and the organization value their inputs are more likely to adopt the change process and are less likely to observe resistance to change. Lack of participatory involvement of employees in change process will predict more resistance to change. The more the employee input is valued and is allowed to participate in the change process, the less will be the resistance.

Lines (2004) studied the influence of participation on resistance to change. Lines identified a strong relationship exists between employee perceptions of their participation in change process and reduced resistance to change. Lines defined participation as involvement of employees in the initial assessment and development of change plan. Lines suggested that participation allows more interaction between the change agents and change recipients who will help them to overcome their resistance to change. Lines concluded that use of participation will lead towards successful implementation of change.

Van Dam at el (2007) reported that participation of employees in the change planning and implementation process increases the change acceptance. Participation often offers number of benefits: such as increased understanding of the circumstances that make change necessary and a sense of ownership and control over the change process increases the readiness for change. Van Dam et al. found a significant relationship between resistance to change and change strategies such as communication and participation.

Dianne and Amrik (1998) reported that participation of employees in change process is the best method of handling resistance. It has been suggested that involving employees in learning, planning and implementation stages of the change process tends to increase employee commitment to change and will ultimately lowers the resistance to change (Lewin, 1991; Coch & French, 1948, cited in Dianne & Amrik, 1998). Employees must be given the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of change process and they must be given the opportunity to provide feedback. Involving management and employees in the change process will help to overcome many of the difficulties experience during the change process.


Literature indicated a significant relationship between change strategy “communication about the change”, “participation of employees in change process” and “employee resistance to change”. If there is higher level of communication about the change process, there will be lesser employee resistance to change. If the employee tends to participate in the change process, there will be lesser resistance to change.

After going through the above literature it is established that the communication as a change strategy helps in minimizing resistance to change. Resistance to change can be minimized by informing about the change and providing reasons for change (Kotter and Schlesinger 1979). Communicating about the change, its consequences and new roles of the employees will play a positive role in minimizing resistance to change (Van Dam at el 2008). Effective communication helps in minimizing resistance to change by involving employees in the change process and implementing it (Mary Welch & Paul R. Jackson, 2007).

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Minimal information about the change process results in uncertainty and ambiguity. Individuals being uncertain and ambiguous about the change process will incorporate ideas that how change will affect them, their department and their organization and how to respond to change, such feelings usually give rise to resistance to change so adequate information about the change facilitates lowering the level of resistance to change (Milliken, 1987, cited in Wanberg & Banas, 2000).

(K.I. Miller & Monge, 1985; Schweiger & DeNisis, 1991, cited in Wanberg & Banas, 2000) develop a connection between flow of information and acceptance level of employees in a way that sufficient level of information increase the level of acceptance among employees which in turn decreases the resistance.

Lewis (2006) examined a relationship between communication of the change and employee resistance to change. Lewis found that communication of change influences the resistance to change and if the employees receive more information about the change, there will be less resistance to change.

Participation of employees in the change process in one way or other assists managers to overcome the resistance. One way is the involvement of employees in the change process that has significant effect on individual’s attitudes towards the change itself, which in turn directly influence their reactions to change. Individuals who are more involved in change process will have positive attitudes towards change, so they will react to it in less negative way (Giangreco and Peccei 2005). Wanberg & Banas’s study in 2000 also supported the above mentioned findings.

Lewis (2006) proposed that if employees are not allowed to participate in change process, they might feel that their opinions and suggestions are not wanted and valued. So they will actively resist change. According to Van Dam at el (2007) participation offers certain benefits to employees which minimize the level of resistance by the employees. Dianne and Amrik (1998) study reveals that the participation increases the level of commitment among employees and decreases their level of resistances towards a particular change.

Limitations of Study

This study is limited to reviewing previously published research involving employee resistance to change and change strategies which will help in reducing employee resistance to organizational change. Study focused on two major change strategies: communication and participation and their relationship with the employee resistance to change. Impact of these strategies (communication and participation) is studied on employee resistance to change unilaterally meaning that resistance is considered only a single dimension concept.

Future Research

Present study focused solely on the relationship between change strategies (communication and participation) and employee resistance to change as a one-dimensional concept.

Oreg (2006) found that not enough information, as well as too much information about the change may be detrimental and can increase employee’s resistance. He suggested that moderate amount of information about the change would be optimal when introducing organizational change. So, future research could be done in order to identify the contexts and processes in which information can reduce the resistance instead of enhancing it.

As there are other strategies of change such as Facilitation, Negotiation, Manipulation, and Coercion which also play a role in minimizing resistance to change. Facilitation will help overcome the resistance when people are fearful and anxious about the change. Negotiation helps deal with resistance when people are losing through the change and they have enough power to influence the change process. So offering them incentive will help defuse their major resistance. Manipulation is helpful in resisting change by co-optation i.e. involving an individual in design or implementation of change. It is relatively easier, quicker and cheaper solution to the problem Future research could further explore the relationship between these strategies and employee resistance to change.


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