Employee Resistance to Change; Its causes and the transitional phases

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INTRODUCTION “It is perhaps ironic that, given the number of failed change initiatives, those who question the need for change are often cost as the villains of the piece, as unable to adapt to the dynamic changing conditions of the modern world”. (Dawson, 2003, p. 20) Resistance to change is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them. Resistance may take many forms, including active or passive, overt or covert, individual or organized, aggressive or timid (Syque 2007). Stickland (1998) has described resistance as an ongoing problem for change managers, and believes that the problem of resistance lies at the heart of the change programmes. As well as potential resistance to change by employees, it is worthwhile acknowledging that organizations may face resistance to change from other groups such as suppliers, distributors, stakeholders and consumers. The common theme binding all of them being, we argue, a naïve and managerialist assumption that resistance is counterproductive – even irrational – behavior which needs to be overcome. Resistance is an inevitable response to any major change. Individuals naturally rush to defend the status quo if they feel their security or status is threatened. Folger & Skarlicki (1999, p. 25) claim that "organizational change can generate skepticism and resistance in employees, making it sometimes difficult or impossible to implement organizational improvements". If management does not understand, accept and make an effort to work with resistance, it can undermine even the most well-intentioned and well-conceived change efforts. Coetsee (1999, p. 205) states "any management's ability to achieve maximum benefits from change depends in part of how effectively they create and maintain a climate that minimizes resistant behavior and encourages acceptance and

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