Individual & Organizational Factors Responsible for Resistance to Change

Individual Factors responsible for Resistance to Change

There are many factors responsible to resistance to change at the individual level. Degree of force or resistance depends on how people feel about the change. This feeling may be based on actual facts or may be governed by emotional factors. Thus, in actual operation, many factors generate resistance to change.

Resistance to Change - Individual factors
Resistance to Change – Individual factors

1. Problem of Adjustment

Perhaps most important factor for resistance to change is the problem of adjustment. Each individual tries to maintain a sort of equilibrium, both at formal level as well as at informal level. When change comes, it requires people to make adjustment so as to cope with the new situation.

People seek status quo because once they establish equilibrium, they may not like that it is disturbed. Status quo gives them more satisfaction because the existing equilibrium has been arrived at by eliminating those forces which give people discomforts. When change is introduced, this equilibrium does not remain as satisfactory as it was before the change.

The change may present various difficulties because people have to engage themselves again in the process of forming a new equilibrium. This transitory period is quite unsatisfactory, and people may not like to go for dissatisfaction unless the change may bring them more satisfaction otherwise. Thus, there is a natural tendency that people will resist change.

2. Economic Reasons

People resist change if they feel that it is likely to affect them unfavorably so far as their economic needs are concerned. The greater the amount of loss perceived, greater is the degree of resistance. People may perceive several types of economic losses because of change, major of them being as follows:

1. Fear of technological unemployment;

2. Fear of reduced work hours and consequently reduced monetary benefits;

3. Fear of demotion and consequently reduced pay;

4. Fear of speed-up and reduced incentive wages; etc.

It can be seen that many of the above factors are quite real and not merely imaginary. For example, automation may replace many workers and they will be put out of employment if no alternative employment is provided by the organization, or the organization is not able to increase its volume of operation so as to absorb all workers. This is the reason why automation is resisted by workers, and they accept it only when they are guaranteed for alternative jobs.

3. Obsolescence of Skills

Change may result in obsolescence of skills specially when altogether a new method of working is adopted. With the adoption of new method of working, old techniques become useless and consequently old skills become obsolete. Therefore, when people sense that new method of working poses a threat of replacing them or in some way affecting them adversely, they will resist it.

It is not necessary that with the adoption of new method, people with old skills will be replaced; there may be other consequences also like reduction in authority of the position which they have been holding, attaching less importance to the jobs they have been performing, and so on.

For example, with the introduction of computers, the jobs of accountants may be changed completely, and unless they adapt themselves to the new situation, their utility will be reduced and their job will become less important to the organization. Either accountants change themselves which is not an easy task, or try to stall the move of putting computers. Thus, fear of obsolescence of skills may be reason for resisting change. This phenomenon is commonly found in those people who possess no real marketable skills and whose knowledge is outdated.

4. Emotional Factors

There are many emotional factors which also generate resistance to change. As indicated earlier, people may not analyze the likely impact of change in an objective manner but they may be governed by their feelings, emotions, attitudes, etc. Thus, many factors will produce resistance to change like fear of unknown, ego defensiveness, group norms, and social displacement.

a. Fear of Unknown

People fail to evaluate the impact of change because it is future-oriented. Therefore, some amount of uncertainty is always there. It is a tendency to discount future impact because of two reasons:

1. First, people may derive benefits or otherwise in future while they have to pay the cost at the present. Naturally, they will discount the future.

2. Second, future is uncertain and the impact may not be exactly in the same way as predicted. The unknown poses a constant threat to people.

Therefore, the fear of unknown makes people uncomfortable, as the impact of change is unknown.

b. Ego Defensiveness

Sometimes people resist change because it is ego deflating. Ego defensive people always resist such a change. Everyone has some ego which one tries to maintain. Ego is the state of a person’s way of behaving, thinking, and feeling. Any attack on these, actual or perceived by the person, will be resisted. For example, a foreman is unlikely to accept a change suggested by a worker because he may feel that his ego has been hurt. If he is highly ego defensive, he may take it even adversely.

c. Group Norms

People also resist change because the group to which they belong resists it. Though each person interprets change individually, often he expresses it through the group. He follows the group norms. The degree and extent of group pressure on individual to resist the change will depend on two factors.

1. First, how loyal an individual is towards the group. If he is loyal to the group, he will resist the change even though it may be beneficial to him:

2. Second, how the group perceives it as a separate class than change agent: higher is the difference between two, higher will be the degree of resistance and its impact on individuals.

For example, if managers and workers see them as distinct classes and perceive their interests-differently, there will be more resistance to change by workers and individual workers will resist it vehemently.

d. Social Displacement

Introduction of change often results in social displacement of people like breaking of informal groups and relationships. When the friendship with fellow-members is interrupted, there is a possibility for the employees to experience psychological let down. Therefore, they dislike new adjustment, breaking up of present social relationships, reduced social satisfaction, and feeling of outside interference in the form of change.

Many emotional problems relating to change are difficult to overcome because these are based on non-logical considerations rather than the rational considerations. People’s perception of the likely impact of change is affected considerably by their personal factors and group factors to which they belong rather than technical aspect of change. Thus, the degree of resistance to change will be determined by the effect of change on people’s need satisfaction and the way the change agent brings the change.

Organizational Factors responsible for Resistance to Change

Beside individual factors, the organization also may resist change. Some of the organizations are so designed that they resist innovation and change. For example, organizations that perform a narrowly prescribed assortment of functions oppose change. They create strong defense against change. This is the reason why many organizations fail to change over a period of time, though this phenomenon may be disastrous to them.

Resistance to Change - Organizational Factors
Resistance to Change – Organizational Factors

Major organizational factors for resistance to change are as follows:

1. Threat to Power and Influence

A change is likely to be incorporated successfully if it has the blessing and support of top management. When people, at the top level, consider change as a potential threat to their position and influence, they resist it.

A change is likely to produce a new power equilibrium with more emphasis on knowledge and new skills. This new equilibrium may reduce the amount of power and influence of people at the top which may not be liked by them. Therefore, they may resist any such change.

2. Organization Structure

Some forms of organization structure are more resistant to change, for example, bureaucratic structure. A bureaucratic structure where lines of communication are clearly spelled out, jobs are precisely defined, works against change. Since all these are prescribed rigidly, there is very little scope of making changes. Moreover, the flow of information from top to bottom level is stressed.

Therefore, there is every possibility that an information initiating or necessitating change may be screened out at the higher level itself because change does not suit the present organization structure. Unless the person at the top is highly dynamic, change will always be resisted.

3. Resource Constraints

Many organizations resist change because of resource constraints. It is to be noted that all organizations have limited resources because resources are limited by their basic nature.

However, some organizations may feel resource constraints more than others. In such a case, the organizations may not like to incorporate change because it involves some additional cost at least in the beginning.

4. Sunk Costs

Organizations may also resist change because they have invested in fixed assets and other resources. These costs cannot be recovered unless the assets and resources are put to productive use. When change is incorporated, many of these resources become useless. This may be true for assets as well as for persons also. For example, earlier it has been seen that change may result in obsolescence of skills.

However, an organization will have to bear the cost because it cannot dispense with these people. Similarly, assets cannot be replaced because of change in technology. Naturally, the organization will like to continue with the old system.