Globalisation, digitalisation, and the COVID-19 pandemic are some of the most impactful causes that continually force organisations to adapt to contemporary realities. This phenomenon primarily concerns technological advancement and associated challenges; however, innovative leadership frameworks and theories of organisational behaviour also imply the necessity of change. Nevertheless, many people and organisations are reluctant to adapt to the factors mentioned above, which might significantly slow down the development of the company. In most organisational behaviour theories, this phenomenon is referred to as resistance to change or organisational resistance (Metz, 2021). Many studies demonstrate that inability of companies to adapt to contemporary realities might lead to severe management and financial problems (Metz, 2021). From these considerations, it is essential to thoroughly analyse the phenomenon and reflect on the severity of organisational resistance. Ultimately, the current essay discusses to what extent resistance to change is inevitable and to what extent it can be managed.
Overview of Organisational Resistance
As mentioned briefly before, change in organisations concerns many areas, ranging from innovative technologies to the motivation of employees. Therefore, experts identify the three primary levels – individuals, structures, and corporate culture – to explain the nature of organisational resistance and provide effective countermeasures (Lauer, 2021). Furthermore, these areas are closely interconnected; for instance, if individuals are unwilling to change and adapt, the corporate culture will inevitably remain the same (Lauer, 2021). On the other hand, if the company executives do not provide incentives to change for their employees, the workers would be reluctant to adapt to the contemporary realities of business (Lauer, 2021). As seen from these examples, resistance to change is a significant problem, which can only be resolved through the company’s united efforts. Nevertheless, many organisations successfully adapt their values, operations, and technologies to contemporary requirements, which transparently demonstrates the possibility of change.
Experts recognise that organisational resistance is inevitable to a certain degree, judging by the nature of adaptability. In other words, similar to the laws of evolution, only the most adaptable organisms can survive and strive in the continually changing environment (Lauer, 2021). Therefore, many experts draw parallels between the natural order and the capability of organisations to adapt to the competitive setting in business (Lauer, 2021). Ultimately, vast evidence aligning with this perspective suggests that a certain degree of organisational resistance is inevitable, and all three structural levels – individuals, structures, and culture – may encounter challenges adapting to contemporary realities (Pereira et al., 2019). Furthermore, this philosophy is particularly relevant in the evolutional theories of organisational behaviour that perceive organisations as complex but whole organisms that evolve similarly to the laws of nature (Pereira et al., 2019). In this sense, organisational resistance is an inevitable factor that eliminates unprepared organisations from the competitive setting.
Nevertheless, the concept of organisational resistance’s inevitability is not unique to the evolutional theories but rather is a common perception in the field. This perspective is relevant due to the utmost complexity of organisational behaviour and a large variety of external factors that affect it. For instance, some experts identify four primary challenges that enforce resistance to change – demographic features, technological progress, social pressure, and external stakeholders (Metz, 2021). The first factor implies that all employees in the organisation have diverse education, skill levels, and demographic attributes, such as gender, age, cultural background, and other variables (Metz, 2021). Such a vast variation might be profitable for the company as it is also associated with diverse opinions and perspectives on problems. However, the experts emphasise that diversity in demographic variables might also pose significant difficulties for the company’s capability to adapt and, thus, increase organisational resistance (Metz, 2021). It is a highly relevant challenge for most organisations and needs to be mitigated by intelligent management.
Consequently, the second challenge in this framework – technological progress – refers to innovative methods, computational processes, leadership styles, and other factors that allow achieving competitive advantage. In other words, the organisations that cannot adapt to the contemporary realities and implement innovative technologies would inevitably have higher organisational resistance (Metz, 2021). In general, this problem primarily concerns higher levels of the organisation, namely, structures and corporate culture, which can vastly benefit from intelligent management and innovative leadership styles.
The third factor – social pressure – is also an inevitable factor in contemporary realities since all organisations vastly depend on public perspectives and support. For instance, the trend for green products and sustainable development might be highly beneficial for society, ecology, and equality. However, it is also true that many organisations fail due to values that do not align with public perspectives (Lauer, 2021). Thus, social pressure and contemporary trends are essential factors that should be taken into consideration. Lastly, the fourth factor concerns external stakeholders, including shareholders, market deviations, customer preferences, and changes in supply management. Frequently, organisations cannot affect these forces and, thus, must adapt to the transformed realities and requirements (Metz, 2021). Such adjustments commonly require significant organisational changes and increase the overall organisational resistance. Ultimately, many factors facilitate organisational resistance, making it inevitable to a certain extent in most cases.
Management of Organisational Resistance
As seen from the paragraphs above, many experts emphasise the inevitability of organisational resistance specifically due to various external factors and the similarity of organisations to evolutionary concepts. However, similar to the laws of nature, humanity demonstrates the vast potential for pattern recognition, structural thinking, and the capability to control the environment (Lauer, 2021). Experts utilise observation and reflection to create organisational development and behaviour models that allow minimising organisational resistance (Metz, 2021). Thus, the primary techniques used in the management theories include continuous education, employee engagement, support, negotiation, manipulation, and coercion (Metz, 2021). As a result, these methods can be classified as supportive and coercive measures and should be used depending on the organisation’s needs.
Supportive Management and Case Studies
Evidently, supportive management is a preferred framework that allows mitigating organisational resistance through thoughtful dialogue and cooperation. The experts emphasise the effectiveness of this approach when resistance occurs due to little understanding of changes, anxiety, and misinformation (Metz, 2021). Furthermore, it can be used to mitigate the burn-out syndrome of employees after the implementation of changes. Lastly, this approach frequently emphasises one or several people that can act as role models and support the employees both with their words and actions.
For instance, the transformational leadership models in such companies as IKEA and Google are exemplary case studies that demonstrate the significance of emotional support for the mitigation of organisational resistance. Moreover, in these cases, the founders of the organisations frequently act as coaches, role models, and benefactors, demonstrating the efficiency of supportive management (Lauer, 2021). The founder of IKEA – Ingvar Kamprad – used to have close and familial relationships with employees, regularly visited the shops for friendly discussions and was generally loved by the public and workers (Lauer, 2021). His actions aligned with the values of the company, and the employees knew that any change would have most likely benefited the whole organisation and not only the wealth of executives (Lauer, 2021). These beliefs, emotional support, and transformational leadership successfully mitigated the organisational resistance in IKEA despite it being one of the pioneers in furniture retail.
Coercive Management and Case Studies
On the other hand, coercive management can also be highly effective in the mitigation of organisational resistance in certain cases. For instance, the scientific management theory is built upon the concepts of control, tangible incentives, dehumanisation, and maximum efficiency (Hill and Buren, 2018). This model is prevalent in fast-food organisations, construction suppliers, and other areas that do not require creative thinking or global vision (Hill and Buren, 2018). From these considerations, supportive management would also have little effect on organisational resistance in such companies due to little value of emotional incentives in the first place. On the other hand, coercive management, including monetary negotiation and manipulation, aligns well with the values of scientific management and might be used to achieve high short-term results (Metz, 2021). Furthermore, tangible assets are some of the most effective methods to motivate the employee if there is no emotional attachment to the company. Ultimately, coercive management might be highly effective to mitigate organisational resistance in the framework of scientific management and associated theories.
Organisational resistance is a significant problem in contemporary business as many organisations fail to adapt to innovative technologies, unprecedented leadership frameworks, and social pressure. Thus, most experts emphasise the inevitability of organisational resistance due to the complexity of the system and a large variety of external factors negatively affecting the organisation. Nevertheless, the intelligent usage of supportive or coercive management might be highly effective to mitigate organisational resistance depending on the chosen management style and theory of organisational behaviour. Ultimately, the current essay has demonstrated that even though resistance to change is indeed an inevitable consequence, it might be managed almost to the full extent via comprehensive supervision.
Hill, V., & Van Buren, H. (2018). Taylor won: The triumph of scientific management and its meaning for business and society. In Corporate Social Responsibility. Emerald Publishing Limited.
Lauer, T. (2021). Change management: Fundamentals and success factors. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Metz, M. (2021). Overview of change in organizations. Resistance to change: A literature review. “Ovidius” University Annals: Economic Sciences Series, 21(1), 611-620.
Pereira, V. R. et al. (2019). Resistance to change in BPM implementation. Business Process Management Journal, 25(7), 1564-1586.