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Management of change

Management Of Change

The Management of Change


Analyze the ways in which resistance to change becomes apparent within organizations. What strategies can managers adopt to overcome such resistance when implementing change programs? There is an information avalanche that has given us more things to think about than any other generation before us. Change affects us on many levels: individual, family, community, company, nationally, and internationally. We are always restructuring in some way and at an amazing pace. Mergers and downsizing have become words with which we are all very familiar. Change can be stressful, scary, and generally unsettling.

Table of Contents

1. Abstract

2. Table of Contents

3. Introduction

4. Why People Resist Change

5. Defense Mechanisms

6. Symptoms of Resistance to Change

7. Strategies to Reduce Resistance

8. Changing-Developing new attitudes and responses

9. Conclusion

10. References


Change is the process of moving from one state to another. Just as moving to a new house requires the massive packing of furniture and other items, change requires just as much preparation to be successful.

Most people do not like change, we like things to remain the same. Change requires more effort from us to adapt. Change threatens our stability and security and we fear that we will not be able to cope with the change. Resistance is the natural defense to such perceived threats.


To know the symptoms of resistance to change, we have to understand why people resist change. Reasons can range from as trivial as (though not trivial to the person) flying somewhere rather than driving, being indecisive about taking a job offer at a large union company on a different shift. A recent example of this was when I almost turned down a job offer by Chrysler last year. I am extremely happy I took it now.

Fear of the unknown: The person does not know what is happening and why it is happening. Imagine a person walking down a street only to have an electricity blackout. He panics for a moment, because he does not know what had happened and he is afraid of being robbed or murdered in the dark. Similarly, employees do not like to be kept in the dark. They want to be kept informed of happenings, especially when it will affect them, so that they can prepare themselves for any onslaught.

Disrupted habits: "You can’t teach a old dog new tricks" rings true in some instances. Older employees especially who are set in their ways, get upset when they are told that they can no longer use the old method of doing things. In the 1960s, the Singapore government advocated family planning banned spitting in public areas. The older folks who were brought up on the tradition that clearing phlegm is good for the lungs got upset. Hintzman, D. L., and Caulton (1997)

Loss of face: The Chinese in Singapore are divided into various communities depending on their forefather’s origins in China and the dialect group. To unite the Chinese, the Singapore government advocated the use of Mandarin as a common language. Use of dialects was strongly discouraged. Television shows and radio programs in dialects were abandoned. This pretty much upset the older folks who felt that their old traditions and culture were being stripped away, and that the old ways were not the good ways. Hintzman, D. L., and Caulton (1997)

Loss of confidence: The employee feels that he cannot perform just as well under the new way of doing things. A typist, who formerly could type at 60wpm and now has to use the computer, is afraid that she cannot type just as fast on the machine. In the 1960s, English was promoted as the official language of Singapore. The older Chinese, who came to Singapore in the first half of the century, were mainly uneducated. They built up their businesses through hard work. Accounts were kept in their heads and credit was given on trust. They felt that they would not able to cope just as well in the new English-speaking environment. Hintzman, D. L., and Caulton (1997)

Loss of control: The government’s population control policy encourages the Singapore citizens to stop having children after they have had two. Measures to discourage having more children, such as higher assessment fees for the third child, low priority in education, etc. were implemented. Many couples felt that they had no choice but to follow the policy. Their feeling was of things being done to you rather than by or with you. Hintzman, D. L., and Caulton (1997)

Poor timing: In these times, when changes are happening frequently, the employee will feel overwhelmed by the many changes and also that things are moving too fast. Before he has learned how to use WordPerfect 5.0 Microsoft comes out with Microsoft Word 6.0, and he has to re-learn again. (Denning, S., Hoiem, D., Simpson, M., and Sullivan, K. 1990)

Work overload: With the tight labor shortage in Singapore, many employees had enjoyed job enlargement. Their energy is already consumed by the additional workload, and they do not have spare energy, physical or psychic to commit to the change. Hintzman, D. L., and Caulton (1997)


Just as we resist physically when someone tries to assault us, we use resistance as a defense mechanism, when we perceive any change as a threat. Resistance can be overt or implicit. (Dosher, 1981)

Overt resistance: When resistance is overt and immediate, it is easiest to deal with, as the causes for the resistance are easily seen. For instance, a change is proposed and employees respond by voicing complaints, engaging in a work slowdown, threatening to go on strike, or the like. Management will be able to formulate strategies to deal with the root causes of complaints.

Implicit resistance: Implicit resistance is more subtle; the loss of loyalty to the organization, loss of motivation to work, increased errors or mistakes, increased absenteeism due to "Sickness": and thus more difficult to recognize. An example of this was when my last company had to acquire ISO 9000 certification. We all opposed it at first and conveniently forgot all we had to do to comply with the standards. After we achieved the goal though, things were more organized and ran much smoother due to the changes.

Deferred reactions blur the link between the source of resistance and reaction to it. A change may produce what appears to be only a minimal reaction at the time it is enacted, but surfaces weeks, months or even years later. Or a single change in and of itself has little impact. But it becomes the Straw that breaks the camel’s back. (Dosher, 1981)

Reactions to change can build up, and then explodes in some response that seems totally out of proportion to the change it follows. The resistance has merely been deferred and stockpiled. What surfaces is a response to an accumulation of previous changes. My current boss has been changing things to "improve efficiency" for months. He does not understand it when people blow up at him over seemingly trivial changes. It is usually an accumulation of things when that happens.


Symptoms to resistance can take the form of:

Aggression: Showing hostility toward management or fellow employees through gestures, words, or even physical attacks.

Fantasy: Day dreaming of another world where the change is non-existent.

Regression: Manifesting childlike behavior such as crying or pouting to attract attention in the hope that sympathetic managers will abandon the change.

Resignation/avoidance: Having excessive absenteeism or tardiness, quitting the job or having a high sick-leave rate. The person creates absences from the place of change, in order to avoid dealing or facing the change.

Negativism: Putting up strong and irrational resistance to accepting the suggestions of others, so as influence others into the same thinking that the change is bad.

Compensation: Exhibiting exaggerated behavior such as using big words, being bossy to show that he/she is not afraid of the change, contrary to personal emotions.

Projection: blaming others for the problem. This is a very common occurrence with managers at Daimler Chrysler currently.

Rationalization: Making excuses for one’s behavior in order to come to terms with one’s guilt. (Dosher, 1981)


Resistance to change is not always dysfunctional. It can provide a vehicle for employees to release pent-up frustrations. Rather than let those frustrations fester, overt resistance allows employees to bring their feelings to the surface. Management can then address employee concerns, help them understand the change better, and lessen its threat.

Employee resistance may also bring to light problems in a change proposal that management had overlooked. In an odd way, employee resistance is a form of checks-and-balances on management and acts to preserve the organization’s culture. Change, particularly if it effects will be tremendous and/or wide ranging should be properly planned. In planning a change, management should consider; the impact of change. Change management and approaches that can be used to overcome resistance and gain commitment to change programs. Senior management should then draw up a program for the change such as; Setting goals and defining the new state required after the change. Analyzing the present conditions in relation to the goals. Defining the transitional activities and commitments required to achieve the new state. Developing strategies and action plans for managing the transition. All this involves identifying the forces resistant to change and the reasons for resistance.

Identifying a Change agent to facilitate the change. To understand the impact of the change, it is essential for senior management to come off their high horses, and listen to the ground. Management can initiate discussion with trade unions and obtain their feedback and inputs on any proposed changes, before implementation. Union representatives, having stronger credibility with the employees to garner support for the change, would be the best people for this. Management has to identify the perceived or real negative consequences of the change. (Nielsen, J. 1993)

Change mechanism: Reducing resistance to change can best be understood by considering the complexity inherent in the change process. Successful change requires unfreezing the status quo, moving to a new state, and refreezing the change to make it permanent. (Nielsen, J. 1993)

According to Lewis, the basic mechanism for managing change is,

"Unfreezing - changing the present state which supports existing behaviors and attitudes. This process must also consider the perceived threats of any change and the need to motivate people to achieve the new state by accepting the change." Lewis (1994)


Change management: There are many styles of managing change and reducing resistance to change, included are; Education and communication: Resistance can be reduced through communicating with employees to help them see the logic of a change. This tactic assumes that the source of resistance lies in misinformation of poor communication. If employees receive the full facts and get misunderstandings cleared up, resistance will subside. However the management-employee relations have to be characterized by trust and credibility. If these conditions do not exist, the change is unlikely to succeed. The time and effort that this tactic involves must be considered against its advantages, particularly when the change affects a large number of people.

Participation: It is difficult for individuals to resist a change decision in which they participated. Prior to making a change, those opposed to it can be brought into the change process. If the participants have the expertise to make a meaningful contribution, their involvement can reduce resistance, obtain commitment, and increase the quality of the change decision. However, against these advantages are the potential for a poor solution and great time consumption.

Facilitation and support: Change agents can offer a range of supportive efforts to reduce resistance. When employee fear and anxiety are high, employee counseling and therapy, new skills training, or a short paid leave of absence may facilitate adjustment. The drawback is that as with the others, is its time consuming, expensive, and its implementation offers no assurance of success.

Negotiation: Another way for the change agent to deal with potential resistance to change is to exchange something of value for a lessening of the resistance. An example of this; is the resistance is centered in a few powerful individuals, and specific reward packages can be negotiated that will meet their needs. Negotiation as a tactic may be necessary when resistance comes from a powerful source. Yet one cannot ignore its potentially high costs. There is also the risk that once a change agent negotiates to avoid resistance, he/she is open to the possibility of being blackmailed by other individuals in positions of power. My boss brought me into the fold when he offered me specific training and duties associated with the training as a reward for joining him in his program. I was able to bring several of the staff with me due to my experience in my field.

Manipulation and co-optation: Manipulation refers to outright influence attempts. Twisting and distorting facts to make them appear more attractive, withholding undesirable information, or creating false rumors to get employees to accept a change are all examples of manipulation. If management threatens to close down a particular manufacturing plant if that plant’s employees fail to accept an across the board pay cut, and if the threat is equally untrue, management is using manipulation. We hear rumors all the time about increasing production or else a shutdown will occur. Co-optation is a form of both manipulation and participation. It seeks to "buy off" the leaders of a resistance group by giving them a key role in the change decision. The leaders’ advice is sought not to make a better decision, but to get their endorsement. Both manipulation and co-optation are relatively inexpensive and easy ways to get the support of adversaries, but the tactics can backfire if the targets become aware that they are being tricked or used. Once discovered, the change agent’s credibility may drop to zero.

Coercion: The application of direct threats of force on the resisters. Examples of coercion include pay cuts, threats of transfers, and loss of promotions, negative performance evaluations or a poor letter of recommendation. The advantages and disadvantages are similar to those for manipulation and co-optation.

If resistance is extremely high, management may have to resort to both reducing resistance and increasing the attractiveness of the alternative if the unfreezing is to be successful.


If the change has been implemented, and it is to be successful, the new situation needs to be frozen-in, so that it can be sustained over time. Unless this step is taken, there is a high chance that the change will be short lived and employees will attempt to revert to the previous equilibrium state. The objective of refreezing-in then is to stabilize the new situation by balancing the driving and restraining forces. An objective view of the challenges that must be overcome in adopting changes can be aided by designing the changes around ideas such as the ones summarized in this paper. Change must be implemented slowly, steadily, and with much forethought. Simply piloting new changes and determining that it is likely to be beneficial is insufficient, as this paper points out.


Clark, Liz 1994: The essence of change: Prentice Hall international, Inc., UK.

Denning, S., Hoiem, D., Simpson, M., and Sullivan, K. 1990, The value of thinking-aloud protocols in industry: A case study at Microsoft. The Human Factors Society, Santa Monica, CA, Human Factors Society.

Dosher, B. A. 1981, The effects of delay and interference: A speed-accuracy study, Cognitive Psychology 13, 525-579

Hintzman, D. L., and Caulton, D. A. 1997, Recognition memory and modality judgments: A comparison of retrieval dynamics, Journal of Memory and Language 37, 1-34

Lewis, J. R. 1994, Sample sizes for usability studies: Additional considerations, Human Factors, 36, 360-398.

Nielsen, J. 1993, Usability Engineering. (AP Professional, Boston:.

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