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Resistance to change

Although change is inevitable, people tend to resist it in a rational response based on self-interest. Resistance to change is not always bad or harmful. In some cases, resistance is positive also. Resistance to change can also be a source of functional conflict. For example, resistance to a change in product line can stimulate a healthy debate over the merits of the idea and, thus, result in a better decision. However, it also hinders adaptation and progress.

Table 9.1: Reasons of Resistance to Change

Reasons of Resistance to Change

Some evidences of resistance to change are very overt such as wildcat strikes, work stoppage, turnover and protests about a proposed change. Resistance to change, may also be very subtle and indirect, such as dissatisfaction, grievances, requests for transfers, absenteeism and conflict among the members of a work team. The reasons of resistance to change can be divided for analytical purposes, into two broad categories of individual and organizational resistance to change. This is shown in the Table 9.1. In the real world, the reasons often overlap.

Individual level change

Individual level changes may take place due to changes in job assignment, transfer of an employee to a different location or the changes in the maturity level of a person which occurs over a passage of time. The general opinion is that change at the individual level will not have significant implication for the organization. But this is not correct because individual level changes will have impact on the group which in turn will influence the whole organization. Therefore, a manager should never treat the employees in isolation but he must understand that the individual level change will have repercussions beyond the individual.

Individual Resistance

Individuals resist change for a variety of reasons. Here are the four reasons why individuals may resist change :

1. Fear of the Unknown : Changes often bring with it ambiguity and uncertainty. If, for example, the introduction of a new computer system requires that the employees learn some specific statistical technique, some may fear they will be unable to do so. They may, therefore, develop a negative attitude toward the introduction of new computer system.

1. New Learning : For doing new task, one requires to learn a new language, develop a new technology, or adjust to a totally new culture. No doubt, learning new ideas can be exciting, most people report that excitement comes only after the learning is occurred, not before.

2. Disruption of Stable Friendship : Almost all organizational changes disrupt the previous stable friendship. This, is turn, results in uncomfortable feelings of social isolation and loneliness. This may serve as a source of indirect resistance to change.

3. Distrust of Management : There are well-documented findings available from the history of labour relations that managers exploited laborers. That's why employees often suspect the reason for change and try to oppose the same.

Below are suited some additional reasons why people resist changes. Some of these appear to be rational and emotional. These reasons are :

1. Economic Factors : The economic reasons for the resistance to change may be the following :

(i) Workers may fear that the change will lead to technological unemployment. Generally, new technology is associated with the reduction of labour intake and therefore, people will resist a change that will affect their employment.

(ii) Workers fear that they will be idle most of the time due to the increased efficiency of the new technology, which in turn may lead to retrenchment of labour force.

(iii) Workers may fear that they will be demoted if they do not acquire the skills required for the new jobs.

(iv) Workers resist the change which leads to setting high job standards, which in turn may reduce opportunities for bonus or incentive pay.

2. Habits : All human beings are creatures of habit. The modern life is so complex that nobody wants to consider the full range of options for the hundreds of decisions we have to make every day. Instead all of us rely on habits or programmed responses. For example, whenever we decide to go out for dinner, we generally try to go to our tried and tested restaurant instead of trying a new one every time.

Due to this nature of human beings whenever a person is confronted with a change, his basic tendency will be to resist the change. For example, whenever a person is transferred, his first reaction, most of the time, is to resist the change because it will lead to a lot more complexities like shifting the house, change of schools of the children, making adjustments in the new place, finding new friends, joining new group etc. Thus, every person will try to take the easy way out by resisting this change.

3. Insecurity : One of the major reasons for resistance to change is uncertainty about the impact of change, specially on job security. The fear of the unknown always has a major impact on the decision of the individuals. Not knowing what the change would bring about makes the employees anxious and apprehensive about the change.

4. Lack of Communication : If the workers are given an opportunity to participate in the process of change the resistance is likely to be less. But if the change is not properly communicated that to in an acceptable manner to the employees, it is likely to cause resistance.

5. Extent of Change : If there is a minor change and the change involves only the routine operations, the resistance, if any, will be minimum. But the major changes like reshuffling of staff will lead to major visible resistance. Similarly, the process of change is slow, the resistance will be less as compared to rapid or sudden changes.

6. Psychological Factors : One of the major reasons for resistance can be the emotional turmoil that a change may cause, especially if the past experiences with the changes have not been positive. The psychological reasons for resistance to change are :

(i) Workers may not like criticism implied in a change that the present method is inadequate and unsuitable.

(ii) New changes may lead to reduction of the personal pride of the workers because they fear that new work change will do away with the need for much manual work.

(iii) Workers may have the fear that the new jobs will bring boredom and monotony as a result of specialisation brought by the new technology.

(iv) They may resist the change because harder work will be required to learn and adapt to new ideas and they do not want to take the trouble in learning new things.

(v) The workers may be incapable of understanding the implications of new ideas and methods.

7. Social Factors : Individuals have social needs like friendship, belongingness etc. for the fulfillment of which they develop social relations in the organization. They become members of certain informal groups. The change will bring a fear in the mind of people because there is generally dislike for new adjustments, breaking present social relationships, reduced social satisfaction, feeling of outside interference in the form of change agent etc.

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