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RESISTANCE TO CHANGE a challenge for HRM

No matter whether a change is of major proportions or is objectively rather small, the change manager must anticipate that people in the organization are going to find reasons to resist changes. It is a basic tenet of human behaviour that any belief or value that has been previously successful in meeting needs will resist change. This applies even if there are better more successful alternatives to meet those needs. Resistance to change takes many forms. The more obvious forms consist of active resistance, where people will object, or refuse to cooperate with the change. Other, more subtle forms of resistance, however, are more difficult to deal with. Some examples of “resistive symptoms” include:

 

  1. At a staff meeting everyone agrees to utilize a new procedure, but several weeks later you discover that the procedure has not been implemented.

2. New computers are introduced into the workplace. While all staff insisted that they have their own machines, virtually nobody is using them for the purpose for which they were intended.
3. A change in job responsibilities takes place for an employee. The employee consents to the change by saying: “You’re the boss, and if that’s what you want…” Later the employee only changes what he is doing enough to appear cooperative, but is in fact doing most things the way he was before the change.

It is very important that the change manager anticipate, and plan strategies for dealing with resistance. This applies not only at the introduction of the change, but there must be follow-through, so that the change manager monitors the change over the long-term, being alert for difficulties as the appear.It is helpful to have an understanding of why people resist change, because understanding this allows us to plan strategies to reduce resistance from the beginning. Also, some of the reasons that people resist change do not seem to make sense to the casual observer. At times they can seem nonsensical and illogical. They are, nonetheless, important.

 

SOME REASONS WHY PEOPLE RESENT OR RESIST CHANGE:1

1. One major reason why people resist change is the potential for loss on a personal level. Note that objectively there may be little threat, but people may act as if there is one.

Some of the things people feel are at risk during change processes are:

Security
Friends and Contacts

Money
Freedom
Pride and satisfaction

Responsibility
Authority
Good working conditions

Status

You probably will have noted that many of the above bear a very close resemblance to the model of human needs discussed earlier. The general principle is that whenever a change is perceived as creating some threat to the employee having his/her needs met the more likely resistance will occur.

 

2. OTHER REASONS FOR RESISTING CHANGE:

While a feeling of threat is a primary reason why people resist change, there are other factors that can mobilize people into resisting any changes from a status quo. These include:

Change not needed – status quo is working fine.

Proposed change does more harm than good.

Lack of respect for person responsible for the change objectionable way of implementing the change.

Negative attitude towards the organization before the change no opportunity to have input into change perceived as implying personal criticism change simply adds more work and confusion. Change requires more effort than to keep status quo bad timing of the change a desire to challenge authority hearing about the change secondhand

 

By Robert Bacal, M.A.

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