Free «The Impacts of Employee Resistance on Organizational Change» Essay

The Impacts of Employee Resistance on Organizational Change

Introduction

Globalization has brought about increased competition in the business environment; there is a great need for organizations to implement various changes. Various factors pressure organizations to implement changes ranging from political, social, economical and technological (Ferguson &Lavalette 2006)). Lamm and Gordon (2010) point out that every change is organized in a way that it will influence positively to the overall performance of an organization. In order to make change successful and hence increase their competitive advantages over their rivals, mangers have attempted various strategies such as organization redesign (Dawson 2003), which entails changing the existing culture of the organization (Alas & Vadi, 2006).

An organization is often forced to change the way it conducts its operation for a number of reasons. For some organizations, it could be the need for improving their products and the need to rebrand among others. These reasons are the basis for the varied types of change that has been characteristic of various organizations. For instance, some of the major basic changes identified in organizations include, evolutionary change, which is mostly initiated gradually (Consador, 2012). The revolutionary change is another type of organizational change, which is initiated drastically to enable the organization to handle sudden changes.

According to Devine (2010), even though change is implemented for good reasons such as improving a business’s competitive advantage, many are the times that change is received negatively and resisted by the employees. As Devine (2010) explains, change comes along with many alterations to the way an organization used to do things and this is the main reason as to why many employees may fear to embrace change. Many organizations have implemented change but have failed to achieve success because of the lack of understanding of how to mange employee resistance to change (Dawson, 2003).

Resistance is defined as the opposition or struggling with adjustments or transformations, which modify the status quo in the place of work. Similarly, it is the workers’ conduct, which seeks to dispute, interrupt, or reverse existing assumptions, authority relations, as well as discourses.

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The failure cannot be condoned because change represents an inevitable segment of business; nonetheless, some perceive it as an easy process they can deal with whereas others perceive it otherwise. Actually, some workers resist the process and this can result in negative effects. The effects are widely spread and may influence the employees’ morale when they are not handled immediately. Therefore, the first step is to understand the negative outcomes of resisting change in one’s organization. Most of the studies carried on this topic have mainly focused on factors that influence employees’ resistance to change and effective strategies of overcoming resistance to change. However, studies on the impacts of employee’s resistance to an organizational change are few. The literature review therefore aims to fill in the existing gap and hence enrich the existing literature on this topic. The articles reviewed are all journals with relevant and adequate information regarding the topic plus books.

Literature Review

Organizational change can be defined as fluctuations in the current states of an organization affecting the whole organization or part of it, which affects the existing pattern of behavior, culture, structure and the interrelationship among its various components in order to enhance the capacity of the organization to achieve greater competitive advantage and hence high performance (Dawson, 2003). In short, organizational change can be defined as the restructuring and redesigning of a company’s components in order to improve its effectiveness and efficiency. Employees’’ resistance to change can be defined as the employees’ behavior, way of thinking and attitudes which seek to challenge the implementation of change in an organization (Alas & Vadi, 2006). Herscovitch (2003) defines employee resistance to change as the actions or inactions which are planned to avoid change or hinder its successful implementation in its present form. According to Oreg (2006), any hostile reaction, opposition, negative attitudes or forces that prevent or hinder change adoption and implementation is resistance. It is the natural as well as a normal reaction to change because of the nature of change; that is, going from known to the unknown. Additionally, it is because of the misunderstandings arising from the need to change. Therefore, managed change needs to be implemented in stages to ensure the level of resistance is reduced. This is because, when the change is gradual, members of the organization slowly learn the effects that the changes will have in the organization. They analyze the change in its relevance to their daily operations and adopt it with time.

According to Marquis and Huston (2000), despite the kind of transformation taking place, most of the changes are likely to cause accomplishment, loss, self-importance, and stress feelings. Because change interrupts the balance present in a group, Marquis and Huston (2000) suggest that resistance ought to be anticipated always. However, in spite of this, transformation ought to happen and should not be perceived as a threat, but as a challenge or a chance to partake a new endeavour. Therefore, managers in charge of launching the change should know the reasons for employee resistance and become familiar with approaches, which can be employed to lower it.

Lewin (1958) came up with a model known as Force-Field analysis, to explain how change occurs within an organization. According to Lewin, field can be defined as an entirety of synchronized facts, which are considered as mutually dependent. As Lewin explains, an issue is held at balance by tow opposing forces- the forces that support change (driving forces) and the forces opposing change (restraining forces) as illustrated in figure one below. The stage in which the driving forces become equal to the opposing forces, an organization enters a state of inertia or equilibrium. In a state of equilibrium, no change can take place in an organization. Therefore, accordng to Lewin, if an organization aims to implement any change, its management should ensure that the driving forces overcome the opposing forces.

Hollander and Einwohner (2004) explain that resistance to change in an organization is recognized through various symptoms. The two authors point out that employee resistance to organizational change is a natural reaction, which should be effectively nagged to benefit both the employees and the organization. Hollander and Einwohner point out that it is important to differentiate between the symptoms of change and the causes of resistance. Burnes (2004) categorizes the symptoms of employee resistance to change as overt and covert. Resistance can be termed as overt when it involves the obvious opposition, disagreement, debating among others, to any change effort made by an organization. Covert resistance can further be categorized into two: conscious and unconscious. Conscious covert resistance is the resistance in which the employees are worried about the shortcomings of the behavior that they agreed upon but in reality not adhering in order to avoid change implementation (Burnes 2004). The unconscious covert resistance is difficult to detect because the employees are not even aware of their resistance to change.

There are many reasons behind employees’ resistance to change (Devine, 2010). Devine (2010) points out that for any change to be embraced by employees, they must be part of the change implementation process. When employees are not involved in the change implementation processes, they fail to identify with the changes making them lack trust with their management team hence leading to resistance to change. Choi and Ruona (2011) point out that the main reason as to why employees’ may resistant change is because they focus on their individual interest and many perceive change as only beneficial to the organization. Many employees may misunderstand change, hence fear losing their values, benefits, stats, and hence think that change may cost them more than they stand to gain. Choi and Ruona therefore advices mangers that for change to be implemented successfully, employees should be well informed about the change and al the benefits that they will get from the intended organizational change. Some employees especially the old resist change because of technology phobia (Boockenooghe, 2010). The old employees are not well versed with technological skills and knowledge, which many changes come along with. Therefore, they may resist change due to the fear of the complex technology associated with it. Other employees just resist change emotionally even though they may understand what it is all about and its benefits to them and the whole organization.

Choi & Ruona (2011) argue that employees may resist change due to corporate history and culture. For instance, if a company implemented an organizational change in the past and failed to achieve its objectives, employees may fail to support such a change in the future since they believe it will most probably fail. Burnes (2004) supports Choi and Ruona’s argument by stating that employees’ resistance to organizational change can be attributed to past failures, wince they leave negative impression of future changes. Any change is associated with new responsibilities, new processes, and new mode of behavior. Therefore, employees may oppose change to avoid more responsibilities associated with it. According to Burnes (2004), emergent change come with lower motivation to involve employees and hence win their interest and this explains why emergent change faces strong resistance in an organization. Burnes explain that in order to overcome employee resistance, changes must be planned and designed in such a way that they are able to motivate employees to win their support.

Dawson (2003) explains that employee resistance to change can impact either negatively or positively on organizational change. However, many researchers Ferguson and Lavallette, (2006), Choi and Ruona, (2011) and Atkinson (2005), agree that the negative impacts of employees resistance on an organization are greater than the positive impacts. According to Atkinson (2005), resistance to change e affects the speed at which innovation is adopted in an organization. Most of the innovations done by an organization are aimed at enhancing its capacity in order to perform better and achieve greater competitive advantage. With increased competition in the business environment because of globalization, successful innovation is an effective strategy of ensuring a business’s stability and success. In order to make innovation visible in an organization, the management team should therefore strive to implement all the necessary changes associated with the innovation. When employees rest change, it becomes difficult for the organization to innovate since it lacks the employee support needed to make innovation a success. Resistance will affect the attitudes towards all stages of the innovation adoption process. Therefore, when employees are not committed in the innovation process, it becomes extremely difficult to achieve all the objectives, which impacts negatively on the organization’s productivity and efficiency.

Employee resistance to change lowers their morale to work. According to Frahm and Brown (2007), whenever there are changes taking place within an organization, employees may feel less hopeful about their professional future with the organization. Most managers and their supporting management team members fail to communicate effectively wit their employees about the changes being implemented. As a result, employees may misunderstand the changes and lose trust with their managers. This is the main reason as to why their morale to remain committed to the organization’s goal and values may be wavered. Frahm and Brown (2007) explain that lowered morale is like contagious diseases among employees because it spread through the entire staff within a short period of time.  The worst thing is that lowered morale may even spread outside the company where the employees share their perceptions of the organization with other potential qualified professionals outside the organization. This leads to poor turn out during employee recruiting and selection process. It also becomes difficult for the company to retain its experienced and adequately skilled employees, when their morale is lowered. The employees are outsourced by the rival companies making it difficult for the company to equally compete with its rivalls in the highly competitive markets.

 According to Atkinson (2005), lowered employee morale negatively affects an organization’s competitive advantage and hence lowers its overall performance. Frahm & Brown argue that it is important for managers to link change with communication if they aim to win employees’ support in implementing the change. When there is effective communication regarding the changes being implemented in an organization, employees area aware of the personal and organizational benefits associated with the change and hence will most probably support change implementation (Lines, 2004). Managers should apart from effective communication, involve employees in all the stages of change implementation in order to keep them motivated in making the change a success.

Every organization implements change with an objective of enhancing its efficiency. However, if change is not well planed it hinders the very aim why it was adopted and implemented (Herscovitch, 2003). When employees resist change, they spend most of their time and energy on changes taking place within their work place and how they can come up with strategies of making the changes unsuccessful. This means that the employees spend less time focusing on how they can effectively executive their assigned roles and responsibilities. This does not only affect their overall output but their efficiency. Many employees who resist change are less efficient since the lack the enthusiasm and commitment to perform their duties to perfection. They spend time researching on how they can overcome the driving forces as explained in the Lewin’s force-field model analysis in order to hinder change implementation. Their happiness lies in effectively resisting change and not their overall output and efficiency. According to Alas and Vadi (2006), when individual employee efficiency is reduced, the overall efficiency of the company is greatly affected. An organization cannot perform well when employees are inefficient. When the overall output of the company is reduced, it becomes difficult for it to survive in the globalized highly competitive markets (Ferguson & Lavalette, 2006). Ferguson & Lavalette point out that it is important that mangers focus and invest in effectively managing employee resistance if they aim to implement change successfully and enhance their organization’s survival in the modern competitive markets.

Dawson (2003) explains that employee resistance leads to a destructive work  environment. Employees opposing changes may conflict with the management team and other employees within the organization supporting who ate supporting the changes. These conflicts affect employee relationships making the working environment unfavorable for productive work. Dawson (2003) points out that because employee resistance is contagious, the conflicts arising form it also spread easily in the entire organization affecting all its departments. Employee resisting change feel like they have lost control in their territories and this is the reason they fight back in order to remain in power. In fighting back change, employees disrupt the patterns of behavior and procedures followed in the working stations hence disrupting the entire running of the business because most organizational functions are interdependent (Boockenooghe, 2010). Change comes along with new patterns of behavior cultural values and attitudes. Therefore, employees are expected to change their behaviors, attitudes and values in order to enhance successful implementation and sustenance of change (Alas & Vadi, 2006). Employees who oppose change therefore effuse to adopt the preferred behavioral changes to ensure that the changes are not successful. This means that in the work place, the employees’ conflict in terms of their behaviors and attitudes. This does not only lead into a disruptive work environment but also impacts negatively on the overall organizational image that is perceived by the customers as they interact with the employees.

Oreg (2006) explains that from definitions, change means departure from the past. This means that for an organization to depart from the past, it must have realized that its past projects were not effective as expected. According to Oreg (2006), as an organization departs from the past ineffective projects, the employees who were in charge of these projects may feel unwanted if they are not involved in the changes that the organization plans to implement. Employee resistance may arise in relation to this hindering the organization to achieve its objectives of implementing the changes. The failure to make such employees understand the need for change from the past projects, an organization might lose some of its managers forcing the organization to invest in recruiting new managers to oversee the implementation of the new projects.

Lam and Gordon (2010) point out that whereas resistance to change may be associated with many negative impacts, it also influences positively on an organization in some ways. Many managers wish to implement change where they face no resistance. In an organization where there is no employee resistance, all new ideas are embraced and implemented without experiencing any resistance. In such an organization where all employees embrace new ideas, it is expected that the organization will realize greater competitive advantage and improved efficiency. Lam and Gordon (2010) argue that as while new idea may be smoothly assimilated in an organization with no employee resistance, the bad idea may be assimilated along with the good ones. Employee resistance to change may be an effective tool in preventing assumption of bad ideas that might influence negatively on an organization’s overall performance. Resistance to change challenges mangers to scrutinize and evaluate their changes before implementation to ensure that they are good and will impacts positively on an organization. According to Hollander and Einwohner (2004), managers should appreciate when employees resist change because the resistance helps them to justify where the change is necessary in their organizations. This ensures that the organization does not invest in destructive change. Resistance to change also enables organizations to take time when planning for change, prioritize, and crate supporting projects to make the change a success. Resistance to change also ensures that the management team involves the employees as they seek their responses and reactions to the change (Lines, 2004).

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