Managing Change and Resistance to Change

Change is nothing new and a simple fact of life. Some people actively thrive on new challenges and constant change, while others prefer the comfort of the status quo and strongly resist any change. It is all down to the personality of the individual and there is little management can do about resistance to change (Mullins 2010).

chanage picture

As a result of the above, conflicts arise between organisations and individuals in the implementation of changes within the organization. Individuals who resist changes within an organisation do so because of the uncertainty that comes with the new system (bearing in mind that they are already used to the current or old ways) because they are often not aware of its implications (Mullins 2010). Individuals can also be resistant to change because they are unsure if they have the needed skills for success in the future state. Their different personalities and cultural background could also explain the resistance to change and the complexities that managers have to grapple with in dealing with resistance because if one step changes, a multiple associated steps have to change accordingly (Ford et al 2008). Hence, there is little the management can do to stop resistance to change from individuals.

On the other hand, even though resistance to change in organisations is eminent within the organisation, there are many solutions to deal with it. According to Ford et al (2008), managers can overcome individual resistance to change through the trio process of communication, negotiation and consultation so as to avoid communication breakdown. This will help individuals within the organisation to understand the reason and for change. It is also important that management invest more about employees’ reactions to change during the entire change process.

PMI Fellow Michel Thiry, MSc, FAPM explains how program management is the best way for organizations to implement change.

Adapted from youtube

The role of managers in the resistance of individuals to change within an organisation cannot be overemphasised. This is because, it is their duty to ensure that resistance to change does not affect the organisation’s business. In doing this managers must first and foremost understand the reason for the resistance to change from individual employees and gradually help employees to adapt to it through proper communication and development of the necessary skills needed for the change (Paul  2010). On the other hand, resistance can also add value to the change process because it helps the management of the organisation to reexamine the need for the change as well as its pros and cons for the organisation. It also forces managers and the organisation to slow down a bit and take the time needed to create comprehensive plans (Dave, 2014).

A very effective change management tool that could be recommended to management is Lewin’s (1951) change model with its three stages of unfreezing, changing and refreezing. This model is suggested because it touches at the heart of the three main stages required for effective change implementation within an organisation. The unfreezing change helps to prepare employees for the change process with the necessary tools such as communication, justifications for the change and provision of training were necessary skills are needed to adapt to the change. This is followed by the execution of the change proper after which the change is interiorised in the third and final stage.


 Adapted from Mullins (2010)

Organisation that exemplified change

A typical example of an organisation that illustrates the whole idea of change, resistance and management is the case of J.P. Penny the American Retailer. JCP (known for short) embarked on transformation of its organisational structure from an inflexible to a more flexible style due to the demand for change and the challenges from the external environment. JCP witnessed a lot of resistance from its employees during this process one of which was experienced in its “just call me Mike” project. A group of employees resisted the ‘just call me Mike’ project, showing a negative attitude because  they felt they were being forced to abandon the old ways which was perfect for them (Purkayastha 2007).

In response to this resistance, JCP is known to have conducted a survey among its employees with the sole purpose of getting feedback from them so as to better understand their resistance and know how best to effect and make them see reasons for the change. Following this, JCP proceeded on a training program for both its employees as well as for executives to educate them better on the need for the change and the benefit offers. Although the training program could be said to be an extra cost, it definitely provided a means to solving the resistance to the change process (Mariana and Violeta, 2011).

According to Merrell (2012), resistance by employees hampers the pace at which innovation is adopted by organisations. It does not only affect the feelings and opinions of employee during the change process but spills over to their levels of productivity, quality and relationship (Merrell, P, 2012). In order to manage change in the midst of resistance therefore, it is fundamental that managers improve relationship with employees by creating encouraging effective communication. This is because communicating the need for change to subordinates gives them a sense of worth (Pihulyk 2003).

                                            change image


Mariana, P, and Violeta, S.( 2011) ‘opportunity to reduce resistance to change in a process of organizational change’, Annals Of The University Of Oradea, Economic Science Series, 20, 2, pp. 698-702, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, [12  September 2014].

Mullins J and Christy G (2013) Management and Organisational Behaviour, 10th edition, Harlow: Pearson

Mullins, L.J. (2010) Management & Organisational Behavior, 9th edn, Horlow: Pearson .

Pihulyk, A (2003) ‘Embrace Change’, Canadian Manager, 28, 4, pp. 27-28, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, [10 September 2014]

Purkayastha,D.(2007)’Remaking JC Penney’s Organizational culture’ [online] available from < >  [12  September 2014]

ICMR (2007) “Remaking JC Penney’s Organizational Culture” [online] available from <> [3 September 2014]

Merrell, P. (2012) ‘Effective Change Management? The Simple Truth” Management Service, Vol. 56 (2), 20-23, [online] available from < 469149f83944%40sessionmgr12&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=bth&AN=77508042> [3 September 2014]

Dave B. (2014), Are Your Employees Resisting Change? It May Be a Good Thing, [Online] available from [5 September 2014]

Paul R (2010) How to Deal With Resistance to Change [Online] avaialble from <>[7 September 2014]

Ford, j, Ford, l, and D’amelio, A( 2008) ‘resistance to change: the rest of the story’, Academy Of Management Review, 33, 2, pp. 362-377, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, [7 September 2014]


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