Resistance As A Positive Tool

1.1 Introduction

Organizational change is an inevitable challenge for organizations which exist in this competitive world and ever changing environment. Therefore, it is important for all organizations (public or private) to effectively manage change. In the issue of change management, the resistance to change is acknowledged as being a basic block to change, and a major reason that change does not succeed or get implemented (Mabin, Forgeson and Green, 2001). Any change, no matter how obvious beneficial to workers and the organization, will be met with and often be sabotaged by resistance.

In reality, many people concur that resistance is the last thing management wants during change process. In many instances, resistance has caused dramatic chaos and uncertainties which may bring the change into a disaster or worse collapsing the whole organization. That resistance to change is negatively related to change outcome seems to be definitely confirmed. However, the almost generally accepted axiom that people resist change has recently come under challenge (Jansen, 2000). Though, many theorists are now trying to respond to those resistances more objectively, many still believe resistant are everything but helpful.

In developing countries, resistance to change is inevitable phenomena, as long as it is acknowledged there is need for change i.e. reforms and restructuring the sectors and institutions, “Local government reform of 2000, Public sector reform 2001” due to that this research is interested in seeing how the governments and institutions in Tanzania can be assisted to change their view concern with resistance from negative perspective to positive one.

And how Malaysia as the one among developing countries passed through different stages of development since their independence can be used as a model and learning centre of the researcher in her research.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Although it is a very frequently repeated discourse that change is unavoidable and organizations must change, the failures or low rate of success in change programs discloses the necessity of additional work on the subject of change management. According to statistics reported by leading corporate reengineering practitioners, success rate of change management, in Fortune 1000 companies are quite below 50% (Strebel, 1996). One may list various causes for failures in change initiative but in many studies, resistance has been one of the most salient elements of those unsuccessful attempts.

Resistance to change is the most complex and intractable problems that face an organization today, in many developing countries ( Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria) this phenomenon became widely practice in different forms such as reduction of outputs, absenteeism, transfers requests, chronics quarrels, hostility and even strikes which made managers and administrators in organizations to view resistance as an obstacle to successful implementation of organizational change and even governmental projects and program .

It has been observed that immediately after independence many developing countries particular Tanzania started reforms and restructuring their government by adopting different concept such as development administration with the objectives of strengthen their economic, increase administrative capability and eradicate social and economical problems. It is almost 45 years now since independence but changes have slowly taken place and most of the reforms are well good in papers but implementation of the reforms “Local government reform of Zanzibar which is the part of Tanzania is still in papers” are very slow due to the resistance to change from employees.

1.3 Research Objectives

To find out positive role of resistance as being part of change process.

To assess to what extent employees accepting resistance to change as a productive aspect and rewarding point to the change itself.

To examine how managers will gain utility from resistance to change of their employees.

To help managers to find techniques that will encourages them to utilize resistance to change rather than overcome it.

1.4 Research questions

Parallel to the diversity of arguments existed in the literature, researcher preferred to approach resistance by taking its both negative and positive aspects into consideration. In doing so, researcher want to emphasize the constructive aspect of resistance which managers, employees and organizations in general can benefit during change processes. Under the light of this general purpose, guiding questions of the research are constructed as follows;

What is the positive role of resistance to the change process?

How far employees can recognize resistance as productive aspects to the change itself?

How managers will gain utility from resistance to change?

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What role does resistance play to the organizational performance?

What will be the techniques that will encourage the managers to utilize resistance rather than overcome it?

1.5 Significance

The purpose of this study is to understand the role of resistance in the process of change management. The study will provide deeper understanding of key factors in implementing change programs. By referring to resistance, the researcher does not see resistance as a barrier that needs to be eliminated; instead, she aim to understand the concept of resistance in a wider scope and to identify crucial issues that can influence process of change in a positive way. In that way the study can be influential in terms of minimizing failures or dissatisfactions in change programs.

By studying the research objectives and research questions, the researcher hopes to bring a new perspective about resistant behaviors of employees during the change process. Understanding, describing and analyzing roots and symptoms of resistance can enable us to construct a framework to implement change programs more successfully. Emphasis on resistance also brings the opportunity to use it as a constructive tool from this perspective research believe that by highlighting the importance of these activities, this research will be able to portray a comprehensive picture explaining the impact of leaders/managers in resistance management. Apart from above purposes the study will be capable of contributing to community by presenting logical arguments and providing new spaces for further research. Additionally, considering the implications of the research, it would also be a valuable source for government and institutions to locate different problems related to resistance and to take appropriate actions to handle them.

1.6 Methodology and Data Collection

The ability to prefer a convenient method to research on a social reality possesses great importance in terms of determining the adequacy and reliability of result. For this reason, the methodology which research will employ in this proposal has been chosen carefully to meet the requirements of an advanced study which is capable of achieving the study goal in conducting this research. In this section, the study will explain general features of the methodology that researcher will use in answering the necessary question of the study.

Selecting the methodology to study a social reality is wrought by the nature of problem that has been under question. Considering the various elements inherited in the concept of resistance and its complexity, research found it much more convenient to employ qualitative design rather than quantitative. Therefore, researcher will initially intend to reach first hand empirical data through investigating the issue on the field by conducting interview, distributing questionnaires and observation for the collections of data. The researcher will review the secondary sources such as books, journals, websites, and documents to collect data that will substantially provide the necessary information.

Qualitative methodology is a very broad discipline and basically refers to the research processes in which findings are obtained through non numerical or statistical techniques (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Its purpose is to reach an in-depth understanding about social realities and patterns create them. Three basic elements were identified in the qualitative methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p.161)

First data will be obtained through interviews, observations, analysis of documents and materials, second is procedures which are employed by the researcher to evaluate collected data and third is the final reports, in written form or verbal, which states the findings and implications of a study. Parallel to the essential aim of qualitative approach, in terms of understanding why and how of social realities, conducting a qualitative research usually necessitates small but focused samples to search deeply a given social phenomenon. Having considered the nature of our research question and the available of information in the literature, the research has decided to use grounded approach in developing final theory for the management of resistance.

1.7 Literature Review

Even though the concept of resistance to change is not a new one, no consensus about its content and the ways it is experienced has existed among the scholars who have studied it. The concept of resistance to change from the perspectives of some influential scholars in this field by starting to define the concept of resistance, describe factors contributing to resistance, managing resistance and different perspectives of resistance to change.

According to Zander (1950), resistance is a behavior which is intended to protect an individual from the effects of real or imagined change (cited in Dent & Goldberg, 1999, p. 34). On the other hand, Ansoff (1988, p. 207) defines it as a multifaceted phenomenon, which introduces unanticipated delays, costs and instabilities into the process of a strategic change. However, Piderit (2000) has classified the existing definitions in the literature by considering three main dimensions. Firstly she looks at descriptions which see resistance as a behavior, similar to definitions made by Zander (1950).

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It is imperative to say that different authors have different definitions of resistances. But no matter how they organized their words, they commonly linked resistances with negative employee attitudes or with counter-productive behaviors (Waddell & Sohal, 1998). Resistance is caused by a number of factors. For example, individual factors, such as narrow-minded self-interest, fear of uncertainty, lack of confidence, habit and personality and organizational factors such as, lack of shared value and vision, lack of coordination and cooperation, and different assessments and goals (Daft & Noe, 2001; Mabin, Forgeson, & Green, 2001).

For different reasons, employee would use either overt ways or covert ways to resist change (Recardo, 1995). Overt ways of resisting include sabotage, vocal opposition and agitating others. And covert ways includes reducing output, withholding information, asking for more data or studies and appointing task forces and committees. Employees can also resist the change either aware or unaware, which refer to the motivation of sensitive (O’Connor, 1993). When the resistances are unaware, employees usually do not realize that their behavior undermines the change. As a result, such unawareness resistances are more difficult to deal with.

In Koopman’s (1991) words, employees “will resist any change at all cost”. At the level of organization, resistance to change will not only block the implementation of organizational change plan, but also cause financial loss. Finally, organization cannot survive in this changing environment. At the level of individual, resistance can cause great stress and bad feeling (O’Connor, 1993).

As a result, resistance is understood as the enemy of change, “the opponent which causes a change effort to be drawn out by factional dissent and in-fighting” (Waddell & Sobal, 1998). Resistance has also been regarded as one of the causes of the conflicts that are undesirable and detrimental to organizational health (Waddell & Sobal, 1998). Even though some scholars did not oppose the positive aspect of resistance, they consist to argue and claimed that resistance in general is a roadblock that must be removed (e.g. Umiker, 1997). Under this perspective of change, a successful change is defined as a change that is met with little resistance (Mabin, Forgeson, & Green, 2001).

Resistance is viewed to be problematic, which should be managed and overcome to ensure the success of change. And “the inability of employers and managers to cope with employee resistance can destroy organizations and careers” (Umiker, 1997). Maurer (1996) pointed out that people with negative perspective of resistance usually employee win-lose thinking and assume that their way is the right way. Their mind is blocked by such assumptions and they believe resistors must be persuaded or forced to go along. So the way managers often used is to resist the resistance by using power, applying force of reason, ignoring the resistance or making deals with resistors. The results of resisting the resistances are disappointing. Such approach is unable to eliminate the resistance but causes more problems. Finally, the chance of the failure of organizational change effort can be increased. “When the word resistance is mentioned, one tends to ascribe negative connotations to it. This is a misconception.” (Hultman, 1979, p. 54). Resistance is “a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that is caused by a variety of factors”, and “people do not resist change per se, rather they resist the uncertainties and potential outcomes that change can cause” (Waddell & Sohal, 1998).

However, some scholars started to considerd that resistances also have a number of advantages and suggested treating resistance as a useful tool in an organizational change effort. When resistances are managed carefully, these advantages can be utilized to support the change. (Mabin, Forgeson, & Green, 2001; Maurer, 1996; Waddell & Sohal, 1998). In order to justify this claimed, Waddell and Sohal (1998) listed several advantages of resistance that can be utilized. (1) They believe that resistance could be seen as feedbacks to the change and points out the fallacy. (2) Resistance can also be a force to balance the pressure from external and internal environments against the need for constancy and stability and influences the organization to greater stability. (3) An influx of energy is another contribution of resistance because individual could gain sufficient motivation when they feel dissatisfaction with status quo or future states. (4) Resistance encourages or forces the search for alternative methods and outcomes, which keeps the organization changing. Therefore, in general, it important to argue that resistance can be useful in learning how to develop a more successful change process if it is considered as a source of information (Pardo del Val & Fuentes, 2003). These advantages overturn the traditional definition of successful change and urge a re-evaluating the classical understanding of resistance. Notwithstanding what kind of attitudes these authors hold toward the resistance, most of them took a modernist perspective (Ford, Ford, & McNamara, 2001; Gergen & Thatchenkery, 1996).

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Scholars with modernist perspective believe that individual rationality is the major source of human conducts. If we want to gain dominion over the future well-being of the organization, we need to unlock the secrets of individual rationality (Gergen & Thatchenkery, 1996, pp.142). Within this perspective, there is only a concrete organizational reality, an objective world, capable of empirical study (Eastman & Bailey, 1994, cited in Gergen & Thatchenkery, 1996). And the responsibility of the organization scientist is to isolate variables, standardize measures, and assess causal relations with the organizational sphere (Gergen & Thatchenkery, 1996, pp.187).

Assumption of empirical knowledge cause most scholars believe that every person attached with the organization share the same objective and homogeneous reality, and assumption of rational agency drives the scholars to the research direction of seeking the sources of resistance accurately and finding the appropriate strategies to deal with that source (Ford, Ford, & McNamara, 2001).

Traditionally, one can argue that researchers study the resistance based on the assumption that individuals treat the change as a threat. But studies done by Hoag, Ritschard, and Cooper (2002) have shown that staffs often see the need for change and are concerned to just do it. They conducted interviews with some employees in a public institutions and found similar phenomena. However, the intended change of that public organization still proved ineffective. This study suggests that due to different realities in the eyes of different employees the probability of resistance can be higher.

1.8 Chapters and sections of the research

The research expected to have five chapters and different subsections as follows:

Chapter One: Introduction of research

Introduction of the problem

Statement of the problem

Research objectives

Research questions

Significance of the study

Chapter two: Literature Review

Definition of resistance to change

Factors contributing to resistance to change

Managing resistance to change

Previous research on resistance to change

Positive approach of resistance

Discussion of literature review

Chapter Three: Methodology and Data Collection

Research design

Area of the study

Population and sample

Sample techniques

Data collections instruments ( interview, questionnaires and observation)

Data analysis techniques

Chapter Four

Conceptual frame work

Chapter Five: data analysis, findings and interpretation

Data analysis

Data finding and presentation

Discussion of data

Chapter Six: Conclusion and Recommendation





1.9 Proposed schedule of activities




Initial data collection and preparation of research proposal

21st November 2010 – 27 March 2011

16 weeks

Presentation proposal and defense

10TH APRIL 2011-15TH MAY 2011

5 weeks

Submission of chapter one and amendments

5th June 2011- 26th June 2011

4 weeks

Data collection and initial fieldwork in Zanzibar

10th July 2011-9th October 2011

13 weeks

Submission of chapter two and amendments

30TH November2011- 15 January 2012

7 weeks

Submission of chapter three and amendments

5th February 2012- 25th March 2012


Interview an field work in Malaysia

8TH April 2012- 6TH May 2012

4 weeks

Interview and field work in Zanzibar

27TH May 12TH August 2012

12 weeks

Data computation and analysis

2nd September 30th September

5 weeks

Submission of chapter four and amendments

21october 2012- 9th December 2012

8 weeks

Submission of chapter five and amendment

Submission of chapter six and amendments

30th December 2012-17 February 2013

10 March 2013- 5TH May 2013



Formatting and proof – reading and final editing

26th May 2013- 21 July 2013


Submission of thesis

4th August

1 day

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