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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Resistance To Change

Inevitably, at least to some extent, both individuals and groups in organization resist change. Resistance to change often is baffling because it can take so many forms. Overt resistance may be expressed through strikes, reduced productivity, shoddy work, and even sabotage. Covert resistance may be expressed by increased tardiness and absenteeism, requests for transfers, resignations, loss of motivation, lower morale and higher accident or error rates. One of the most damaging forms of resistance is passive resistance by employees-a lack of participation in formulating change of resistance is passive resistance by employees- a lack of participation in formulating change proposals and ultimately a lack of commitment to the proposals, even when they have had an opportunity to participate in making such decisions.

The above figure shows six important sources of individual resistance to change. These aren’t the only reasons why individuals might resist change at work, but they are common and frequently important.
·        Perceptions: The notion of perceptual defense-a perceptual error whereby people tend to perceive selectively those things that fit most comfortably into their current view of the world. Once individuals have established an understanding of reality, they may resist changing it. Among other things, people may resist the possible impact of change on their lives by (1) reading or listening only to what they agree with, (2) conveniently forgetting any knowledge that could lead to other viewpoints, and (3) misunderstanding communication that, if correctly understood, wouldn’t fit their existing attitudes and values. For example, managers enrolled in management training programs are exposed to different managerial philosophies and techniques. In the classroom, they may competently discuss and answer questions about these new ideas, yet carefully segregate in their minds the approaches that they believe wouldn’t work from those that they already practice.
·        Personality: Some aspects of an individual’s personality (e.g., dogmatism or dependency) may predispose that person to resist change. The highly dogmatism as the rigidity of person’s beliefs. The highly dogmatic individual is close-minded and more likely to resist change than is a less dogmatic person. Another example is dependency. If carried to extremes, dependency on others can lead to resistance to change. People who are highly dependent on others often lack self-esteem. They may resistance change until those that they depend on endorse it. Employees who are highly dependent on their supervisors for performance feedback probably will not accept. any new techniques or methods for doing their jobs unless their supervisors personally support the changes and indicate how these changes will improve performance and/or otherwise benefit the employees.

Managers must be careful to avoid overemphasizing the role played by personality in resistance to change because they can easily make the fundamental attribution error. There is a tendency to “blame” resistance to change in the workplace on individual personalities. Although personality may play a role, it seldom is the most important factor in a situation involving change.
·        Habit: Unless a situation changes dramatically, individuals may continue to respond to stimuli in their usual ways. A habit can be a source of comfort, security, and satisfaction for individuals because it allows them to adjust to the world and cope with it. Whether a habit becomes a primary source of resistance to change depends, to a certain extent, on whether individuals perceive advantages from changing their behaviors. For example, if an organization suddenly announced that all employees would immediately receive a 20 percent pay raise, few would object even though the pay raise might result in changes in behavior as employees could enjoy a more expensive lifestyle. However, if the organization announced that all employees could receive a 20 percent pay raise only if they switched from working during the normal workday to working evenings and nights, many might object. Employees would have to change many deeply ingrained habits about when they slept, are, interacted with their families, and so on.  
·        Fear of the Unknown: Confronting the unknown makes most people anxious. Each major change in a work change in a work situation carries with it an element of uncertainty. People starting in a new job may be concerned about their ability to perform adequately. Women starting a second career after raising a family may be anxious about how they will fit in with other employees after a long absence from the workplace. An employee may wonder what might happen if he or she relocates to company headquarters in another state. Will my family like it? Will I be able to find friends? What will top managers think of me if I refuse to relocate? Consequences of these types of decisions cannot be known in advance, so people are typically anxious about making them. Individuals may be so anxious and threatened by change that they refuse promotions that require moving to a new location of significant shifts in job duties and responsibilities.
·        Economic Reasons: Money weights heavily in people’s consideration, and they certainly can be expected to resist changes that might lower their incomes. In a very real sense, employees have invested in the status quo in their jobs. That is, they have learned how to perform their work well, how to get good performances evaluations, and how to interact effectively with orders. Changes in established work routines or job duties may threaten their economic security. Employees may fear that, after changes are made, they won’t be able to perform as well and thus may not be as valuable to the organization, their supervisors, or their coworkers.

·        Organization Design: Organizations need stability and continuity in order to function effectively. Indeed, the term organization implies that individuals, team, and informal group activities have a certain structure. Individuals have assigned roles, established procedures for getting the job done, consistent ways of getting needed information, and the like. However, this legitimate need for structure also may lead to resistance to change. Organizations may have narrowly defined jobs, clearly identified lines of authority and responsibility and limited flows of information from top to bottom. The use of a rigid design and an emphasis on the authority hierarchy may cause employees to use only certain specific channels of communication and to focus narrowly on their own duties and responsibilities. Typically, the more mechanistic the organization, the more numerous are the levels through which an idea must travel. This type of design, then, increases the probability that any new idea will be screened out because it threatens the status quo. More adaptive and flexible organizations are designed to reduce the resistance to change by rigid organizational structures.
·        Organizational Culture: Organizational culture plays a key role in change. Cultures are not easy to modify and may become a major source of resistance to needed changes. One aspect of an effective organizational culture is whether it has the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities to change. An ineffective organizational culture (in terms of organizational change) is one that rigidly socializes employees into the old culture even in the face of evidence that it no longer works.
IBM and General Motors dominated their industries by creating organizations with cultures that were excellent at producing very large products –– mainframe computers and large, powerful cars. When demand for their products dropped off dramatically, both IBM and GM were forced to undertake drastic cultural changes in order to remain profitable. Among other things, the sheer size of these organizations made it difficult for them to change their cultures quickly.
·        Resource Limitations: Some organizations want to maintain the status quo, but others would change if they had the resources to do so. Change requires capital, time, and individuals with a lot of competencies. At any particular time, an organization’s managers and employees may have identified changes that could or should be made but they may have to defer or abandon some of the desired changes because of resource limitations. Continental Lite, formerly a division of Continental Airlines quickly learned that it didn’t have the resources (planes, ground crews, and terminals) to complete effectively against Southwest Airlines for the budget–conscious traveler. Without these resources, Continental was unable to change quickly and had to abandon its attempt to compete directly with Southwest in certain air commuter markets.
·        Inter-organizational Agreements: Agreements between organizations usually impose obligations on them that can restrain their actions. Labor negotiations and contracts provide some example. Ways of doing things that once were considered the prerogatives of management (the right to hire and fire, assign tasks, promote and demote, and the like) may become subject to negotiation and fixed in a negotiated contract. Other types of contracts also may constrain organizations. For example proponents of change may face delay because of arrangements with competitors, commitments to suppliers and other contractors, and pledges to public officials in return for licenses, financing, or tax abatement.

Ken Iverson, chairman of Nucor, a multibillion–dollar steel company discovered something very profound and powerful about involving employees and teams in learning and changing. Early in his career, Iverson was working in a unit of the firm that produced parts for airplanes. They were having a difficult time with their parts being rejected. Owing to the critical nature of specifications in aircraft, parts must be machined to extremely close tolerances, with no margin for error. The approach taken prior to Iverson’s involvement was traditionally straightforward. Supervisors would bring defects to workers; attention and tell them how to improve the quality of their work. However, this approach was failing, as the output of many employees just didn’t seem to improve following such instruction. In addition, social support for change was lacking, as teams on the shop floor were resistant to changing production processes, procedures, and training.

Iverson and of his foreman decided to try a different approach. They hauled a bright red bench to the center of the foundry floor. They piled all the rejects for the day on the bench and walked away. They didn’t say a word. Eventually, some employees walked over to the bench to see what was going on. Individuals began to examine the rejects and to discuss why these parts hadn’t met specifications. They concluded that most of the errors were due to preventable mistake and identifies ways to correct the problems. After about 6 weeks, with employees working on the problems and learning how to fix them, few rejected parts appeared on the red bench on a typical day. On many days there were none. All of this happened without the foreman of Iverson ever saying a word directly to the employees about correcting mistakes.


Anonymous said...

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