Change has become an essential part of modern-day organizational management. Changes occur when the organization is somehow flawed or there is a need to expand, improve, or transform (Caruth & Caruth, 2018). Unfortunately, almost any change is naturally met by resistance and opposition to the introduction of new ideas and methods. According to Caruth and Caruth (2018), resistance consists of both overt and covert actions aimed at preventing, interrupting, or damaging attempts to change implemented by the management. Since change implementation rarely happens without problems, a manager should know how to manage workplace resistance without alienating the opposing coworkers.
Effective Ways to Manage Resistance to Change
In the case of PG Industries (PGI), the main opposition to changes comes from the customer service department director, who resists the adoption of the quality control training program. The program is essential for the company since PGI has begun the production of computer chips and car parts. However, the opposition from the customer service department has the potential for undermining the new training program, which in turn will be harmful to the recent production efforts. In the face of these circumstances, it is necessary to choose and apply suitable resistance management methods.
Most importantly, it is known that the director of customer service is not convinced that the proposed training program should affect their department. Bateman et al. (2020) offer six ways of managing such resistance; however, providing support and forcing changes are seemingly not suitable on this occasion. Facilitation and support work best when resisters are fearful or anxiety-ridden (Robbins et al., 2018, as cited in Metz, 2021). In the PGI case, the resistance stems from the lack of understanding rather than fear of change. Furthermore, a manager in the PGI case acts on the director’s behalf but does not hold any real power to enforce the change. In addition, a coercive, forceful way of overcoming resistance is questionable since it may lead to a manager’s credibility loss (Robbins et al., 2018, as cited in Metz, 2021, p.617). Consequently, changes imposed by discredited management will likely face covert resistance and fail.
Considering this information, one can identify the four most effective ways of resistance management. First of all, one can communicate with the opposition in order to provide the necessary education (Bateman et al., 2020). Secondly, a manager can utilize a participation strategy by involving stakeholders and listening to their expert opinion. Furthermore, it is possible to start negotiations with the resisters and win their commitment in exchange for specific benefits. Lastly, if all of these ways fail, one can resort to covert techniques (Bateman et al., 2020). Robbins (2018) defined these techniques as manipulation and co-optation (as cited in Metz, 2021, p. 617). The last option is suboptimal since it replaces genuine commitment with a manipulated agreement. However, it is still preferable to the coercive course of action that provokes hostility and leaves a manager without allies.
Given the circumstances of the case, it would be wise for a manager to directly approach the senior management of procurement, distribution, and, especially, customer service teams. The director of the customer service department is an important figure since their resistance gradually sways the leadership of the other two teams in favor of resistance. Once their resistant behavior is overcome, it would become significantly easier to persuade the procurement and distribution teams to adopt the training program.
The change management methods identified in the previous section should be utilized after the initial assessment, depending on the cause of resistance. For instance, if the department directors do not understand the importance of quality control, it is necessary to use the education and communication technique. Resistance may often stem from misunderstandings and misinformation — as such, a manager should start with the most probable cause of resistance.
If the directors are well-informed about the training program and its goals but continue to resist, a manager should take extra steps. In particular, the participation and negotiation methods would let engaging senior management of the teams in the dialogue. A possibility might exist that the department heads resist changes because they are not tailored well enough to the working process of their teams. In such a scenario, incorporating expert feedback or making reasonable mutual concessions may facilitate the adoption of the training program.
However, if education, participation, and negotiation techniques fail to yield meaningful results, a manager would have to rely on manipulation and co-optation. As stated before, this is the least desirable way of resistant management among the ones feasible in the PGI scenario. Under this method, specific benefits may be promised directly to the resistant department director. On the contrary, a manager can discreetly reach the department workers to create the necessary push for the change. This technique should be utilized with extreme caution in order to avoid severe workplace conflicts, legal problems, and credibility loss.
Resistance to change is a normal, natural situation in any organization. It is perfectly understandable that people might oppose changes due to inertia, timing, surprise, or misinformation. Therefore, it is a manager’s duty to assess the situation and select the most appropriate resistance management methods. In addition, the ways of resistance management should be related to the cause behind the resistance. Regardless of chosen methods, a manager must remember that they are dealing with their colleagues, not the malcontents. As such, priority should be given to education, stakeholder participation, and negotiations. Manipulation and coercion should be used only if all other alternatives were ineffective because resistance to change was based on malicious intents.
Bateman, T. S., Snell, S., & Konopaske, R. (2020). Management. McGraw-Hill Education.
Caruth, D. L., & Caruth, G. D. (2018). Managing workplace resistance to change. Industrial Management, 60(4), 21-23.
Metz, M. (2021). Overview of change in organizations. Resistance to change. A literature review. Ovidius University Annals, Economic Sciences Series, 21(1), 611-620.