Resistance to Change in an Organization


Change is a necessary process of company operations that may come in different forms. For example, organizations can change their technology, management, workforce, labor policies, geographical location, products, services or brand among other aspects. Change allows companies to realign its goals with the dynamic external environment. As a result, change should be anticipated and employees should always be ready to embrace it. Similarly, managers and decision makers should plan accordingly and make accommodations for change.


Change elicits different reactions from employees and being the key implementers, their reaction cannot be taken for granted. Reactions range from anxiety, fear, happiness, self-confidence, uncertainty, anger, frustration, and enthusiasm. Fear is a common reaction among employees. The fear of losing jobs, being demoted, taking on new responsibilities or relocating to a new branch occurs due to the lack of control employees have on their status quo (Wang & Kebede, 2020). For this reason, they exhibit hostile behavior such as being passive or inflexible in their handling of responsibilities. The result is reduced employee productivity.

Some employees may project self-confidence and enthusiasm as a reaction to change. Hence, they undertake and perceive change as a means to acquire new professional skills. Workers who are open-minded and have high self-esteem are more likely to embrace change as compared to those who are close-minded and have low self-esteem (Wang & Kebede, 2020). Identifying factors that may cause negative reactions in an organization will aid in creating change plans that will foster the exhibition of positive attitudes.

Resistance to change is a common occurrence prior, during and after change implementation in an organization. As such, resistance should be considered an inevitable action that would arise in the change process (Project Management Institute (PMI), 2013). The primary cause of resistance at the individual level is due to fear, mostly referred to as the fear of unknown. Having created attitudes, routines, policies or habits within the context of a familiar organizational culture lead to employees developing resistance to change due to unfamiliarity. The possibility of facing the future with different goals, operating systems, location, management, products, job responsibilities, customers, employees, and new location fosters anxiety within a company.

Additionally, organizational resistance flows through the organizational setting as such affecting the day to day workings of a company. Organizational resistance stems from three primary sources, political, technical and cultural resistance (Cummings & Worley, 2009). Cultural resistance occurs due to the need to protect conformity to existing norms or values while technical resistance arises from the desire to protect common procedures. For example, change might lead to reshuffling of the organization structure which translates to changes in the chain of command. From this, the channels of communication are affected to such an extent that processes such as product delivery, customer satisfaction, and human resource management are affected. Political resistance ensues due instances such as top executives being questioned of their former decisions. Consequently, individual and organizational resistance creates barriers to the implementation of the change process.

Other challenges that can cause resistance include inadequate resources to implement change, lack of change preparedness, insufficient time allotted for change, and poor vision of the organization’s future (Project Management Institute (PMI), 2013). Change process requires time and resources which if insufficient can attract resistance to change. Moreover, if an organization fails to undertake measures of change readiness such as training employees or recognizing the risks that might arise then resistance to change will occur. Alternative typologies of resistance to change encompass revolt, withdrawal, and discreet resistance (Fronda & Moriceau, 2008). Revolts are negative reactions such as strikes, depression or self-destruction usually directed towards change in an organization. Withdrawal is a psychological where individuals alienate themselves from work while discreet resistance is a form of implicit resistance where persons comply with change but express dissatisfaction less blatantly.

Managing change has been aligned towards effective leadership. Good leadership skills are put to use to influence and motivate workers towards adopting changes in an organization. Having a good leader translates to clarity in the organization’s vision, effective communication and adequate preparedness in the change process. Transformational leadership style fosters employee engagement by promoting effective communication between leaders and workers (Zainol et al., 2021). Creating an open communication platform translates to accurate interpretation of the change events, increased feedback from employees about their fears and expectations as well as active responsibility uptake. Good leaders understand the dynamics of organizational culture and work with employees towards alterations regarding the same to influence them to be successful change agents in the organization.

To undertake in effective resistance management an understanding of the coping cycle and use of force field analysis is essential to ensuring reduced resistance to change. The coping cycle provides the five phases of human response towards change. They include denial, defence, discarding, adaptation and internalization (Carnall, 2007). At the denial stage individuals deny the fact that change is happening and thus undertake avoidance as a means of coping. The defence stage is characterized by individuals being at a state of anger in regards to the implementation of change. In the discarding stage, individuals consider their current situation and discard any attitude, behavior or emotion that fails to fit in the change process. On the other hand, the adaptation stage involves persons finding means to deal with change which culminates to the internalization stage where they feel convinced to embrace it. Force field analysis is a tool developed by Kurt Lewin that can facilitate change to occur. It involves identifying the forces that can assist as well as those that can cause resistance. Using the tool involves three strategies which include increasing the driving forces of changes, decreasing the resistance forces and an undertaking of both. Using the coping cycle and force field analysis a leader can create a change model that will reduce resistance to change implementation.


In conclusion, resistance to change is inevitable but can be tamed using effective leadership as well as proper understanding of the coping cycle of change. Employees have different reactions towards change which affects their ability to implement it. For this reason, resistance to change arises at the individual and organizational level resulting in decreased organizational performance. Therefore, fostering open communication through a good leader as well as having an efficient change management process can ensure smooth change implementation.


Carnall, C. (2007). Managing Change in Organizations (5th ed.). Financial Times Prentice Hall

Cummings, T., & Worley, C. (2009). Leading and Managing Change. In Organization Development & Change (9th ed., pp. 166-168). Cengage Learning.

Fronda, Y., & Moriceau, J. (2008). I am not your hero: Change management and culture shocks in a public sector Corporation. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 21(5), 589-609. Web.

Project Management Institute (PMI). (2013). Managing Change in an Organizational Management Context. In Managing Change in Organizations: A practical Guide (1st ed., pp. 35-38). Project Management Institute.

Wang, A., & Kebede, S. (2020). Assessing employees’ reactions to organizational change. Journal of Human Resource and Sustainability Studies, 08(03), 274-293. Web.

Zainol, N. Z., Kowang, T. O., Hee, O. C., Fei, G. C., & Kadir, B. B. (2021). Managing organizational change through effective leadership: A review from literature. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 11(1), 1-10. Web.

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