Resistance to change in Organizations


Resistance to change is a common phenomenon among human beings. According to Forsell & Astrom (2012), resistance to change is a process that develops in human beings during early childhood. This is mainly due to the psychological capability of the human mind to adapt to routines. As such, organizations cannot avoid resistance to change among employees during change management. However, the can come up with ways to help employees overcome resistance to change.

This research aims at establishing some of the methods that organizations can adopt to overcome change resistance. The research is mainly based on practical observations as the main source of primary data and existing works of literature as the main source of secondary data. The theories of resistance to change will be discussed in order to form a theoretical framework upon which the methods of overcoming change resistance in diverse workforces in an organization

Keywords: Change resistance, workforce diversity, change resistance theories, overcoming change resistance


As technology continues to evolve and the world moves towards a globally unified community, change has been experienced in almost all aspects of life. Especially in the world of business, change is currently the only constant thing as businesses continue to progressively advance in terms of operations, services, products, and technology in order to meet the changing customer demand and approaches to businesses. Despite knowing that change is inevitable and the benefits that will be leaped by implementing a particular change successfully, it is our nature as humans to resist change. Therefore, it is necessary for managers to be prepared to face resistance to change within an organization and come up with methods of solving this resistance.

Reasons for Topic Selection

Understanding the dynamics of the human mind and how regular practices and norms can be altered in order to achieve better results has always been a major topic of interest for me. By studying on the methods for overcoming resistance to change, I will be at a position of understanding on why we as human beings get wired to particular behaviors and how such behaviors can be effectively changed in order to improve the overall wellbeing of humankind.

Secondly, overcoming resistance to change is a subsystem of a major whole; change management, a topic that particularly fascinates me especially in the context of public policies. While conducting this research, I will not limit myself only to the aspect of how to overcome resistance to change but I will also focus on the epistemology and metaphysics of change management as a whole in order to establish the reasons behind resistance to change and how this resistance can be solved.

Thirdly, I see myself getting employed at some point in my life especially during the early years of my career. I feel as though this topic will be helpful in enabling me to effectively deal with the changes that might be implemented within my organization. This is mainly because this topic will help me understand why change has to be done and how I can deal with a negative attitude towards change both within myself and my fellow employees.

Moreover, as a management student, my vision is to run a successful business in the future. Effective management will be key in ensuring the success of my career in both the early and advanced stages. This topic offers me a chance to overlook some of the challenges that I will have to deal with as a manager in terms of implementing change and the solutions to this challenge.

A Problem Related to Organizational Behavior That will be Explored

The main problem related to organizational behavior that will be studied in methods for overcoming change is the managerial challenge of adopting a system model of organizational behavior in an environment that is currently being dictated by diversity.

Currently, managers often find themselves facing challenges on how to implement changes in an organizational environment that is majorly characterized by diversity in terms of factors such as race and demographics. Implementing changes that are favorable to all employees within an organization has become more complex due to employees’ diversity in various forms; age, whereby the current organizations have both old and young employees due to the growing number of young people in the job market. The gender factor whereby more women have joined professional careers, diversity as a result of dual career couples whereby managers have to put into consideration the need for work-family balance before implementing changes and diversity in terms of gender whereby managers have to consider the gender of all employees that is; male; female or homosexual before implementing changes that may negatively impact or be unfavorable to individuals of a particular sexual identity.

The growing workforce diversity in organizations has increased the rate of resistance to change in organizations due to the multiple variables involved. Additionally, workforce diversity makes the issue of managing resistance to change more challenging for managers as they have to come up with models for solving this resistance that encompasses all the employees in an organization.

Introduction to Methods of Overcoming Resistance to Change

Aljohani, (2016) describes resistance to change as a collection of actions adopted by individuals to oppose changes which they view as a threat to their routine functions. Resistance to change by an employee can affect the successful implementation of change within an organization since an employee is an important part of the change process (Stouten & Rousseau , 2018). Therefore, it is necessary for the management to come up with methods for overcoming change. These methods include a series of procedures that can be implemented by leaders to ensure smoother transitions within organizations.

Research Questions

  1. Why do people resist change?
  2. How can the organization deal with resistance for change?

Literature Review

A Brief Overview of Resistance to Change

Reasons Why People Resist Change

In order to understand the methods that can be used to overcome resistance to change, it is crucial to briefly understand change resistance. There are various reasons as to why people resist change. These factors can either be behavioral or psychological in nature. Psychological factors that cause resistance to change among employees is mainly due to the attachment to status and low levels of confidence in the change. There are various factors that can be used to identify psychological resistance to change. They include; denial, job insecurity, low morale, focus on the cost of change, not the benefits of change and low tolerance to change (Forsell & Astrom, 2012).

On the other hand, behavioral resistance to change is as a result of fear of breaking of habits. Humans are beings of routines and often find it hard to break away from organizational routines which have been deemed to be no longer competent (Bovey & Hede, 2001). Consequently, they adopt behaviors such as acting-out, disinterest, denial, and projection which often result in organizational conflicts.

Impacts of Change Resistance on Organizations

According to Zafar & Naveed (2014), resistance to change is often likely resulting in low productivity within the organizations. This is mainly because employees are not motivated to work diligently under the new system. Moreover, change resistance often results in conflicts. This is mainly because different employees adapt to different ways of handling the change process (Yi , Gu , & Wei, 2017). While some employees will exhibit signs of being withdrawn from other people others may act –out or project their feelings on other people hence resulting in conflict.

The Dynamics of Workforce Diversity and how it affects resistance to change at an Individual, Group and Organizational Level

Workforce diversity can be defined as the comparisons and contrasts among employees in terms of cultural background, gender, religion, race, sexual orientation and physical abilities and disabilities (Shaban , 2016). Workforce diversity affects how individuals respond to change at an individual or group level. This affects the overall impacts of change in an organization.

Some changes that are implemented may not be favorable to specific individuals within an organization (Shaban , 2016). For example, the management can introduce a change that does not cover an employee who identifies themselves as a transgender. This kind of change can affect how an employee fulfills his or her day-to-day tasks hence, developing resistance to the change. The method adopted to overcome such resistance should mainly aim at convincing such individuals why this change is necessary and how their concerns will be addressed.

Secondly, workforce diversity within groups can affect how groups perceive change hence, resulting to change resistance. For example, a group that consists of very young and old employees may experience challenges when implementing changes on how to conduct group meetings. An introduction of digital techniques such as face timing to conduct group meeting may meet resistance from old people. The method adopted to overcome such resistance should mainly aim at educating the affected groups how the change will be beneficial to them.

Moreover, workforce diversity makes the overall process of change management within organizations more complex (Patrick & Kumar , 2012). This is mainly because managers have to put all the groups represented within an organization into consideration before implementing a change. High levels of workforce diversity within an organization also means that there will be higher levels of resistance to change hence more diverse methods of overcoming change have to be developed so as to meet the needs of all the employees in the organization. Therefore, the methods developed to overcome change resistance should focus on informing the people on how these changes are necessary both at an individual and organizational level.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Methods of overcoming resistance to change include all the tactics employed by an organization to aid their employees to accept and adapt to changes meritoriously, therefore, enabling a smooth transition  (Yi , Gu , & Wei, 2017).

The Theories on Methods of overcoming Resistance to Change

There are three main theories that can be used to explain methods that can be used to overcome resistance to change.

  1. Frames to Overcome symbolic and political obstacles to change

In their research, Bolman and Deal developed four angles or ‘frames’ which should be addressed in the process of change including; structural, human resource, political and symbolic frame (Stouten & Rousseau , 2018). The structural frame deals with the structure of an organization and how it can be reorganized in order to overcome resistance to change.

Secondly, the human resource frame involves how individuals interact to meet each other’s needs. In cases of resistance to change, managers can use this frame to interact with employees in order to help them understand why the change is essential hence enabling them to overcome resistance (Yi , Gu , & Wei, 2017).

The other frame discussed by Bolman and Deal was the political frame. This frame involves viewing the organization from a position of power and conflict. By applying the right power to handle conflicts that arise as a result of resistance to change, managers can help employees get into terms with changes (Aljohani, 2016).

The last frame is the symbolic frame. It comprises of organizational culture and how meaning is made within an organization. By understanding an organization’s culture clearly, an individual can be able to establish methods that help employees to overcome resistance to change (Forsell & Astrom, 2012).

  1. Power Games

This was a theory developed by Crozier in 1979 on methods of overcoming resistance to change in service design. According to this theory, once a change has been introduced, new organizational regulations ought to be created and areas that are dominated by uncertainty be redistributed (Stouten & Rousseau , 2018). This is more likely to cause resistance to change among individuals who are insecure about losing their power. The theory, therefore, suggests that allowing people to understand the implications of the change to their power can overcome resistance to change consequently, eliminating resistance as a result of the fear of the unknown.

  1. Actor-Network Theory

This theory was developed by Latour and focuses on the social relations that are introduced during the process of change. According to Latour, change has an effect on organizational networks including; people, machines and the environment. The changes caused on these networks affect the people that control hence, causing resistance  (Stouten & Rousseau , 2018) . Therefore, before implementing changes on resources, considerations have to be made about all the individuals affected by the change and suitable methods should be established to help them deal with the changes.

Methods of Overcoming Resistance to Change

  1. Education and Effective Communication

Managers should seek to educate employees on the need for change before and after its implementation and communicate effectively on any changes that will be implemented (Stouten & Rousseau , 2018). Once they understand why the change is necessary, employees are more likely to embrace the change. Additionally, effective communication makes sure that a manager understands the implications of changes in the diverse workforce and come up with other alternatives to support them.

  1. Goal Setting and Motivation

By setting short term goals and celebrating small successes, employees will be motivated to work harder towards perfecting their skills under the new system (Bovey & Hede, 2001). Consequently, this significantly overcomes their resistance to change.

  1. Structuring Effective Teams to Maximize Potential

Employees may resist particular changes due to lack of knowledge about how the new system operates (Al-Ali , 2017). Grouping them into effective teams helps them to learn from each other. This enables them to understand changes hence, maximizing potential.

  1. Empowering Innovation and Creativity

Change involves the introduction of new, usually better approaches to achieving organizational objectives. By encouraging innovation and creativity in the organizations’ day to day activities, employees master the act of flexibility (Stouten & Rousseau , 2018). Consequently, they do not usually exhibit high levels of resistance in scenarios of change management.

  1. Implementing Change in Stages

Change often involves a wide range of interrelated activities. Implementing such activities at a go can be overwhelming for employees hence, resulting in resistance (Aljohani, 2016). Implementing changes in stages give employees a time to learn and synthesize changes more quickly hence, overcoming change resistance.

  1. Negotiation and Agreement

Managers should be ready to engage and listen to their employee’s concerns regarding changes. Tradeoffs can be done through negotiations and agreements in order to ensure that both parties are contented hence, overcoming resistance to change (Lonescu & Dragomiroiu , 2014).

  1. Explicit and implicit coercion

Managers can resolve to explicit and implicit coercion to overcome resistance to change if the intended change has a high priority or as the last resort if the other methods do not work (Aljohani, 2016). This approach involves the use of drastic consequences such as job dismissal, lack of promotions or employee transfer.

  1. Manipulation and Co-optation

This approach is used when the other methods of overcoming change resistance are not effective or are too expensive. In this approach, the leader uses their role to influence employees (Lonescu & Dragomiroiu , 2014).

Conclusions and Recommendations to Organizations

Conclusively, resistance to change in organizations is inevitable due to human nature. Therefore, it is not possible to eliminate it but it is possible to develop approaches which enable employees to overcome resistance to change. Some of the methods that can be used to achieve this include; teamwork, goal setting and motivation, coercion, manipulation, negotiation, education, and communication in addition to others.

Most managers are currently facing challenges on how to develop effective methods of overcoming resistance to change as a result of workforce diversity. In order to solve this challenge, it is recommended that managers involve all the employees in change management.


Al-Ali , A. A. (2017). Change Management through leadership: The Mediating role of organizational Culture. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 25(4), 723-739.

Aljohani, M. R. (2016). Change Management. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research, 5(6).

Bovey , W. H., & Hede, A. (2001). Resistance to Organizational change: The role of defense Mechanisms. . Journal of Managerial Psychology, 16(7), .534-548.

Forsell, L. M., & Astrom, J. A. (2012). An Analysis of resistance to chnage exposed in individual’s thoughts and behaviors. Journal of Comprehensive Psychology,

Lonescu, E. L., & Dragomiroiu , R. ( 2014). Role of Managers in Management of Change. Procedia Economics and Finance; 16 (3),, 293-298.

Patrick , H. A., & Kumar , V. R. (2012). Managing Workplace diversity: Issues and Challenges. Sage Open Journal., Retrieved from:

Shaban , A. (2016). Managing and Leading a Diverse Workforce: One of the main challenges in Management. Procedia- Social and Behavioral Sciences; 230(4), 76-84.

Stouten , J., & Rousseau , D. M. (2018). Successful Organizational Change: integrating the Management Practice and Scholarly Literatures. The Academy of Management Annals, 12(2).

Yi , Y., Gu , M., & Wei, Z. (2017). Bottom-up learning, strategic flexibility and strategic change. Journal of Organizational Change Management; 30(2),, 161-183.

Zafar , F., & Naveed , K. (2014). Organizational Change and dealing with Employees Resistance. International Journal of Management Excellence, 2(3), 237-246.




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