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Employee Resistance to Change Essay

Contemporary business dynamics are pressuring organisations to change and adapt effective strategies to operate and remain competitive within this competitive environment. As a result, organisations are responding by embracing change as part of the transformation and strategising process (Pieterse, Caniels & Homan, 2012, p. 799). However, when changes in the organisations occur, employees are likely to resist such changes (Zwick, 2002, p. 542). According to Bovey and Hede (2001, p. 372) when people are confronted with major organisational changes, they are likely to go through a reaction process because change involves moving from known to unknown. Employee resistance to change occurs when managers adopt top-down change process, forgetting that employees are important part of the change process; employee inclusion and motivation is crucial and inevitable. This paper is conducted to explore the main problem of employee resistance to change and motivating factors that lead to employee resistance. This essay will also propose recommendation of appropriate solutions to this problem.

Organisations in the 21st century have to strategise and establish effective competitiveness by undertaking transformational change initiatives. Transformational change requires organisations to make radical modifications to their business models as part of dealing with contemporary uncertain business environment as well as repositioning effectively in the wider business environment (Pieterse, Caniels & Homan, 2012, pp. 799-800). Organisational managers would want to lead relatively smooth and productive change initiatives as part of their responsibilities of managing organisations appropriately. However, when changes do occur, Manuela & Clara (2003, p. 148) has established that employees are likely to resist the changes.

Resistance has to be viewed as a natural process that is bound to happen and should be expected to any change process. Resistance to organisational change manifests in several ways. According to Bovey and Hede (2001, p. 540) major ways in which resistance to change occurs include employees having grievances, level of turnover increasing, efficiency declining, output decreasing, and aggression to management increasing.

Many organisations desire to undertake changes that transform and positively impact their organisation, although this does not happen in many cases. According to Pieterse, Caniels and Homan (2012, p. 798) change is becoming a common element of organisational life. Balogun and Hailey (2008) point out that organisation that are keen to remain competitive are those that are continuing to adapt to changing business environment. However, even when this is the case, Grant and Marshak (2011, p. 204) have argued that effective organisational changes are unlikely to be experienced by an organisation when they are initiated. In an earlier research that was carried out by Hughes (2011, p. 451) it was argued that 70% of change programmes that organisations undertake fail to achieve their intended outcomes or purposes.

At the same time, Schraeder (2004, p. 340) found out that 34% of organisations that undertake organisational changes are likely to achieve positive results, meaning that 66% of organisations are bound to fail in their change initiatives. As a result, Zwick (2002, p. 542) has noted that implementing change programmes in organisations that realise positive outcomes remain problematic for many organisations in the 21st century. Ayodeji & Oyesola (2011, p. 235) have postulated that organisational change is a dynamic process, which when taken poorly contribute to employee resistance to it, and eventually leads to failure of the whole process.

Employees resist changes when they occur in the organisations for several reasons. Many organisations when they introduce changes are likely to stick to the ‘top-down organisational change’ process (Awasthy, Chandrasekaran & Gupta, 2011, pp. 43-45). Top-down change process provides prescription that has only been developed by top managers and given to lower cadre employees down the ranks to consume without their input. According to Bovey & Hede (2001, p. 540) resistance occurs at the individual level, where employees are motivated by psychological factors to change that include resentment, frustration, low motivation and morale, fear, and feelings of failure.

At the same time, earlier publication by Yilmaz & Kilicoglu (2013, pp. 17-18) identified four factors that motivate employees to resist changes in the organisation: employees focusing on self- interests as opposed to those of the organisation, having inadequate understanding of change and its implications, having conviction that change lacks sense for the organisation, and employees having low tolerance. In addition, employees resist change, which according to Martin, Jones & Callan (2005, pp. 265-268) is as a result of developing selective negative perception to the process, having habit of not tolerating change, viewing change as inconveniencing or loss of freedom, fear of economic implications from the process, fear of unknown, and remembering past bad experiences with change process.

Organisations can address employee resistance to organisational change by implementing three categories of recommendations based on the Kurt Lewin Change Model. Lewin’s model is also known as ‘Unfreeze-change-refreeze’ approach, where any change process in the organisation should be embraced after having thorough understanding of the process and adequate motivation for those affected has to be facilitated (Brisson-Banks, 2010, p. 244).

The first stage of change involves unfreezing, which should involve organisations making adequate preparations in order for anticipated changes to be accepted. This is a stage where status quo impeding change process should be diluted and broken successfully. During the unfreezing, it is important for organisation to undertake several measures aimed at reducing resistance: have clear picture of what should be changed, research to establish current state of the organisation, have clear understanding of what change should be pursued, and generate adequate support from the management for the process (Brisson-Banks, 2010, p. 244).

At the same time, management should create need and desire for change in the organisation by creating an attractive and motivating message about the importance of change for the organisation and communicating it to employees, developing a vision and mission that employees are able to buy into, increasing communication among affected employees, and re-emphasising to employees the importance of change (Smith, 2005, p. 410). Another important step is for management team to understand doubts and concerns that employees are manifesting and be in a position to address and respond to them appropriately.

The second stage involves an organisation undertaking and implementing change process while working and diluting all sources that may breed resistance to the process. Change becomes successful when communication and sharing of information takes place frequently (Weber & Weber, 2001, pp. 291-292). Communication is well planned and implemented as part of the change process. At the same time, management should from time to time communicate to employees benefits that are bound to come from implementing change programmes. In this case, it is recommended that management should clearly explain exact benefits that will occur and how the whole process will affect employees (Burnes, 2004, p. 313). Furthermore, greater effort should be directed towards preparing employees who are affected by the process.

The idea should be to introduce change programmes on gradual process, and fostering monitoring, while communicating and sharing information by all stakeholders involved. Consequently, management should work to dispel suspicion, misunderstanding, and fear among employees that compound the process (Wim, 2005, pp. 129-130. This should be achieved through providing timely, open, and honest answers to all concerns by employees, dealing with emerging problems immediately, and developing a positive change picture in the minds of employees (Weber & Weber, 2001, pp. 291-292).

More importantly, organisations can foster less resistance to change process when they empower employees by increasing opportunities to enable employees participate in the process, providing proper direction to employees, and enhancing employee engagement in the process (Denise, Rodney & Schmaltz, 2003, p. 317). Additionally, employees should be involved in each stage of change process, develop sense of owning the process, and feeling to participate in the process adequately while their needs are addressed effectively.

The last stage of the change process involves refreezing, where effort should be enhanced to ensure changes taking place are being anchored in the culture and employees being motivated to sustain them in their daily activities. In this stage, management of the organisation should ensure employees have greater roles to play in ensuring change process generates long-term benefits (Brisson-Banks, 2010, p. 245). This should involve providing necessary support to employees such as re-training them to acquire new skills to engage more in the change process. At the same time, effective and adequate participative leadership should be provided to help employees see greater benefits of the change process (Brisson-Banks, 2010, pp. 245-248).

In addition, management should create an inclusive reward system to motivate employees and recognise their positive contribution to the change process. Also, effective feedback systems that respect employees should be created to use in monitoring and evaluating the whole process of change in the organisation (Barratt-Pugh, Bahn & Gakere, 2013, p. 752). Besides, information sharing and support for employees should be enhanced and employees should be adequately motivated to a level they feel to be part and parcel of the process, they own it, and their needs are respected and protected (Barratt-Pugh, Bahn & Gakere, 2013, p.756 ). These recommendations aim to ensure employee resistance to organisation change is diluted and where necessary minimised.

In conclusion employee resistance to change is a common phenomenon for organisations aiming to transform and change. Resistance to change is motivated by numerous factors within and outside organisation. Employee resist changes in most cases when changes being introduced have a top-down approach that exclude and isolate employees. Employee resistance to change has diverse outcomes, which means that when resistance to any change process occurs, it is important for the management to find appropriate ways to approach the problem. This paper is conducted to analyse and discuss employee resistance to change as a problem and proposed recommendations to address the problem when it occurs.

Reference List

Awasthy, R., Chandrasekaran, V., Gupta, R. K. 2011. Top-down Change in a Public Sector Bank: Lessons from Employees’ Lived-in Experiences. Journal of Indian Business Research, 3(1), 43-62.
Ayodeji, A. A., & Oyesola, R. 2011. Managing Deviant Behaviour and Resistance to Change. International Journal of Business and Management, 6(1), 235-242. Barratt-Pugh, L., Bahn, S., & Gakere, E. 2013. Managers as Change Agents: Implications for Human Resource Managers Engaging with Culture Change. Journal of Organisational Change Management, 25(4), 748-764. Bovey, W. H., & Hede, A. 2001. Resistance to Organisational Change: The Role of Cognitive and Affect Processes. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 22(8), 372-382.

Brisson-Banks, C. V. 2010. Managing Change and Transitions: A Comparison of Different Models and their Commonalities. Managing Change and Transitions, 31(4/5), 241-252.
Burnes, B. 2004. Kurt Lewin and Complexity Theories: Back to the Future? Journal of Change Management, 4(4), 309-325.
Denise, L., Rodney, N. L., & Schmaltz, J. 2003. Managing Resistance to Change in Workplace Accommodation Projects. Journal of Facilities Management, 1(4), 306-321.
Grant, D., & Marshak, R. J. 2011. Toward a Discourse-Centred Understanding of Organisational Change. The Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 47(2), 204-235.
Hughes, M. (2011). Why Does Change Fail, and What Can We Do About It? Journal of Change Management, 11(4), 451-464.
Manuela, P., & Clara, M. F. 2003. Resistance to Change: A Literature Review and Empirical Study. Management Decision, 41(2), 148-155.
Martin, A. J., Jones, E. S., & Callan, V. J. 2005. The Role of Psychological Climate in Facilitating Employee Adjustment During Organisational Change. European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology, 14(3), 263-289. Pieterse, J. H., Caniels, M. C., & Homan, T. 2012. Professional Discourses and Resistance to Change. Journal of Organisational Change Management, 25(6), 798-818.

Schraeder, M. 2004. Organisational Assessment in the Midst of Tumultuous Change. Leadership and Organisation Development Journal, 25(4), 332-348. Smith, I. 2005. Achieving Readiness for Organisational Change. Library Management, 26(6/7), 408-412.

Yilmaz, D., Kilicoglu, G. 2013. Resistance to Change and Ways of Reducing Resistance in Educational Organisations. European Journal of Research on Education, 1(1), 14-21.
Weber, P. S., & Weber, J. E. 2001. Changes in Employee Perceptions During Organisational Change. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 22(6), 291-300.
Wim, J. L. 2005. The Role of Communication in Organisational Change. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 10(2), 129-138.
Zwick, T. 2002. Employee Resistance Against Innovation. International Journal of Manpower, 23(6), 542-552.

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Organisation Behaviour; MGTS 1601; Individual Essay; Employee resistance to change

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