Due Tuesday June 30, 2020 @ 11pm eastern time Al-Haddad & Kotnour (2015) describes the change models of Kotter and Lewin. In an essay, compare and contrast these change models or any other early resea

Copyright © eContent Management Pty Ltd. Journal of Management & Organization (2011) 17: 828–849. JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 828 T he multi-dimensional nature of resistance to change ROY K S MOLLAN Faculty of Business and Law, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand ABSTRACT Resistance to organizational change has too often been portrayed in a limited way, usually as a negative behavioural response of first-level employees. While the academic literature has identified a number of dimensions of resistance, it has not assembled them in one study. Therefore, the aims of this article are firstly to explore resistance to change as a more complex multi-dimensional concept, secondly to examine how actors at various hierarchical levels react to organizational change and thirdly how they construct the meaning of the term resistance. The findings of a qualitative study shed considerable light on the range of ways in which change participants at different levels reacted to a change and how they interpreted their own responses and those of others.

Keywords: organizational change, qualitative, resistance INTRODUCTION W hat does the term mean, ‘resistance to organizational change’? The vast academic and practitioner literature reveals a wealth of con- ceptualizations but little agreement. For example, Dent and Powley (2003) present 10 widely dif- fering definitions of authors that range from resistance as an individual aberration to a view of resistance as embedded in organizational culture and structure. It is also frequently suggested that it is the prime reason for the failure of planned change (e.g., Foote, 2001; Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979). Management tends to ignore the multi- dimensional nature of resistance and view it as employees wilfully behaving badly (Buchanan & Badham, 2008; Maurer, 2006). A closer review of the topic uncovers a banquet of concepts that demonstrate the many ingredients that comple- ment and contrast with each other. The paper begins with an overview of the lit- erature on the dimensions of resistance to change that are often studied in isolation. I suggest that these need to be blended into a more complete and more realistic conceptualization of the term.

In doing so, I aim to contribute to theoretical and practical perspectives on resistance by high- lighting the diversity and complexity of reactions to change and their underlying psychological mechanisms. The literature review also includes an analysis of who is thought to resist change and why, another debated area, and a review of lit- erature on how resistance is socially constructed.

The later sections of the paper are devoted to an empirical study of how participants in orga- nizational change at different hierarchical levels understood the term, and how and why they (and other staff ) resisted change. Finally, the implica- tions of the study for management are outlined. LITERATURE REVIEW The multi-dimensional nature of resistance to change Resistance to organizational change is most fre- quently seen as a behavioural phenomenon The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 829 management, organizational behaviour and social psychology. While much of the change literature concerns resistance, many authors look at both resistance and support (e.g., Bovey & Hede, 2001a, 2001b; Coetsee, 1999; Herscovitch & Meyer, 2002). The term readiness for change is used by Armenakis et al. (e.g., Armenakis & Harris, 2002; Armenakis, Harris, & Mossholder, 1993; Holt, Armenakis, Feild, & Harris, 2007) as a cognitive precursor of behavioural support or resistance. They liken readiness to Lewin’s (1947) concept of unfreezing – people need to be psycho- logically prepared for change before it is imple- mented. Based on early studies of resistance by Coch and French (1948), Armenakis et al. (1993) claim that the prospects of behavioural change can be enhanced by influencing employees’ beliefs, attitudes and intentions.Literature on resistance to change written by practitioners ranges from pithy website and mag- azine comments to the works of well-resourced management consultancies to books devoted to the topic. The combination of all streams of lit- erature on resistance to change has revealed that it is a multi-dimensional concept that goes beyond deliberate employee behaviour and which con- tains degrees of employee response that are often complex and contradictory. This is acknowledged by Piderit (2000, p. 783), who criticizes research which depicts resistance as ‘dichotomized’ and therefore ‘oversimplified’. A plethora of words has been used to describe the nature of responses to change. In focusing on resistance, Hultman (2006) divides it into active and passive forms, identifying over 20 dif- ferent terms. Active resistance takes the form of being critical, finding fault, ridiculing, appeal- ing to fear, using facts selectively, blaming/ accusing, sabotaging, intimidating/threatening, manipulating, blocking, undermining, starting rumours and arguing. Passive resistance includes conscious actions, such as agreeing verbally but not following through, failing to implement change, procrastinating, feigning ignorance, withholding information and standing by and whereby employees demonstrate opposition to management (Mumby, 2005). Academic literature flows from two main streams. In the first, resis- tance is seen as an inherent aspect of organizational life as employees seek to test and negate the power and control of owners and their delegates, manag- ers. In so doing they aim to stretch the bars of the ‘iron cage’, a term ascribed to Weber that signi- fies the restrictions of organizational life (Barker, 1993; Prasad & Prasad, 2000). Change is only one area of the contested domain and may be another manifestation of employees’ quest for autonomy.

The origins of this line of research reside, inter alia, in the fields of critical management stud- ies, philosophy, industrial sociology, political sci- ence and Marxism (Mumby, 2005). Many of the terms used are ideologically and emotionally loaded, such as domination, hegemony, exploita- tion and powerlessness (Ezzamel, Willmott, & Worthington, 2001; LaNuez & Jermier, 1994; Mumby, 2005). According to Mumby (2005) and Prasad and Prasad (2000), those resisting management actions (including those directed at change) have often been portrayed romantically as heroes defending workers’ rights. In contrast, some authors view them as pathetic, Dilbert- like victims or as slow- witted dupes of manage- ment (Adams, 1997), who are powerless in their attempts to fight an overwhelming and implacable force. A more objective position is that staff are able to exercise some degree of influence by the creative ways in which they defend their sense of identity (Ezzamel et al., 2001). Thomas, Sargent, and Hardy (2011, p. 24) argue that, ‘Despite their supposed disadvantaged position, those with less hierarchical authority, expert credentials, or eco- nomic resources, such as middle managers and other employees, can nonetheless exercise power discursively’. Their study shows how middle man- agers debated changes with more senior managers in workshops aimed at cultural change and did not simply accept their interpretations.

The other stream of academic literature is focussed on organizational change itself and emerges mostly from the disciplines of Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 830 framing them specifically as types of resistance, they contribute a number of terms to the lexicon of resistance responses, such as bad-mouthing and retaliating as active resistance, and withdraw- ing and procrastinating as passive forms. Piderit’s (1999) influential model depicts responses to change along three inter-connected dimensions – cognitive, affective and behavioural.Extant literature has thus signposted a num- ber of dimensions of resistance to change.

Consideration of all of them in one study will pro- vide a broader, more realistic and more complex picture of the phenomenon. These dimensions can be separated into discrete categories (which are outlined below) but they do intersect. They can be viewed, not just as dichotomies, which Piderit (2000) complains lack a realistic complex- ity, but as continua.

Cognitive, affective, and behavioural-intentional According to Mumby (2005), much of the resis- tance literature portrays it as observable behaviour.

There is a logic to this in that behaviour is often observable while the thoughts and emotions that drive it are not as easy to detect. Piderit (1999, 2000), Oreg (2006) and Szabla (2007) have dem- onstrated empirically, using Likert scales, that resistance also has cognitive, affective and inten- tional components. Piderit’s (1999, pp. 167–168) study used a number of items to measure sup- port or resistance. Sample items recorded cog- nitive responses from strongly agree to strongly disagree (e.g., ‘I can see potential benefits to the change’), emotional responses from to no extent to a great extent (e.g., ‘When I think about this change I feel happy’) and behavioural/intentional responses from extremely unlikely to extremely likely (e.g., ‘How strongly do you intend to help make sure this change is effective?’). There is often a misalignment between and within these dimensions that leads to a condi- tion of ambivalence, which Piderit (2000) asserts is the most prevalent response. For example, a person may think a restructuring is a good idea doing nothing. Prasad and Prasad (2000) use a fourfold typology of resistance behaviours: open confrontation, subtle subversion, employee withdrawal and disengagement, and ambigu- ous accommodations to authority. They note that sometimes what is construed as resistance is behaviour that may help to achieve organi- zational objectives; conversely employees often appear to comply, but with no intent of actually doing so.

Models of support for and resistance to orga- nizational change have tended to capture the many types of responses in continua or matrices.

Herscovitch and Meyer’s (2002) continuum of behaviours range though active resistance, pas- sive resistance, compliance, co-operation and championing. Coetsee (1999) depicts a range of behaviours on a continuum that starts with enthusiastic support and in terms of resistance embraces apathy/indifference (characterized by lack of interest and an absence of emotion), passive resistance (negative perceptions and atti- tudes, voicing opposing viewpoints), active resis- tance (voicing strong opposing views, peaceful strikes and boycotts) and aggressive resistance (spreading destructive rumours, overt blocking behaviour, violent strikes, subversion, sabotage and destruction). In one of the more complex models, Bovey and Hede (2001a, 2001b), who note that behaviour is usually the outcome of cog- nitive and affective processes, have constructed a matrix of responses with overt and covert behav- iour on one axis, and active and passive behav- iour on the other. Within each quadrant are a number of resistance (and support) behaviours.

Active-overt resistance behaviours are opposing, arguing and obstructing; active-covert actions are stalling, dismantling and undermining; passive- covert reactions include ignoring, withdrawing and avoiding; and passive-overt behaviours con- sist of observing, refraining and waiting. Mishra and Spreitzer (1998) focus on the affective and behavioural reactions to one form of change (downsizing) in a matrix of constructive/destruc- tive and active/passive responses. While not The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 831 Conscious/unconscious-deliberate/ not deliberate The next form of resistance refers to how con- sciously or deliberately people respond to orga- nizational change. Within the three dimensions noted by Piderit (2000), staff may consciously resist change or not be aware that their response could be construed as resistant (Brunton & Matheny, 2009; Fineman, 2003). Cognitive and social psychology researchers (e.g., Bargh & Chartrand, 1999; Bargh & Williams, 2007) have noted that perception, emotion and behav- iour frequently operate in unconscious or semi- conscious ways. Psychodynamic treatments of organizational change see much of resistance as unconscious manifestations of anxiety, denial and inertia (e.g., Antonacopoulou & Gabriel, 2001; Bovey & Hede, 2001b; Carr, 2001; French, 2001; Vince, 2002). A key point is that vari- ous actors in organizational change have socially constructed notions of resistance (Ford, Ford, & D’Amelio, 2008) and may not be conscious that any of their responses constitute forms of resis- tance in the eyes of others. Social construction perspectives are elaborated later in the literature review.

Rational/irrational While it should be the province of trained or insightful observers to make the distinction between rational and irrational reactions to change, it is often those who are initiating or implementing change that deem resistant others to be irrational when they are judged as provid- ing ‘an unwarranted and detrimental response’ (Ford et al., 2008, p. 362). However, in interpret- ing factory worker responses to change Ezzamel et al. (2001, p. 1054) maintain that their behav- iour was not simply or even primarily prompted or maintained by a ‘rational’ intent to save or secure jobs. Rather, it was induced and sustained as much by an emotionally charged concern to preserve conditions of employment that workers at the plant considered to be more commensurate with an established sense of self-identity.

for the organization but present personal disad- vantages, may be both excited and anxious about new responsibilities and may query some of the changes but readily implement others. He or she may wish to act in certain ways but decide not to because of the possible consequences. Those leading and managing change, however, are often unable distinguish between opposition to a change initiative as a whole and resistance to some aspects of it. Yet an actor may be supportive of some goals but not others, or supportive of a goal but not of the method of change (Holt et al., 2007). In one study, Riolli and Savicki (2006) demonstrated that members of two different units of an organization faced with technologi- cal change reacted in different ways. As part of the study management spent considerable time in meetings with one unit explaining why the change was necessary and answering employees’ questions. The members of the other unit were given cursory attention. The findings showed that the members of the second unit were far more resistant to the change because of the pro- cess employed. In another study Smollan, Sayers, and Matheny (2010) revealed that while some participants in change accepted the nature of the outcomes they resisted the speed or the timing of the change.

In broader spheres of psychology the cogni- tion–emotion nexus, and its influence on moti- vation and behaviour, have been analyzed in detail by Lazarus (1991), Scherer (1999), Zajonc (1980) and others. Insights from literature on emotional labour (e.g., Bolton, 2005) reveal how organizational actors suppress emotional expression, often at considerable psychological cost, and behave in ways that their organizations expect. Studies by Bryant and Wolfram Cox (2006) and Turnbull (1999) show respectively that the negative thoughts about change of first- level staff and middle managers produced emo- tions of discomfort and fear that they chose to conceal from their supervisors, partly due to the ways in which coercive and manipulative forms of power had been used. Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 832 withholding information. Avoiding, delaying and ignoring tend to be passive forms. While resign- ing from the organization can be seen as a form of passive resistance, threatening to resign is active and overt resistance. According to Giangreco and Peccei (2005), middle managers tend to resist change passively and more discreetly by not championing it or facilitating its implementation, rather than by voicing overt dissent or rejection.

Overt/covert, visible/invisible Bovey and Hede (2001a, 2001b) label overt resistance as openly expressive behaviour and covert resistance as concealed behaviour. These are separate but overlapping constructs. Overt and visible resistance is clearly evident to others and the identity of the resistor is known. Passive forms of resistance, such as employees ignoring a policy, are often invisible unless observers are particularly perceptive or are told of the behav- iour. Cognitive and affective responses usually fall into this category if not accompanied by actions, words, intonation, facial expression and body language. Covert but visible resistance may take such forms as suggestion boxes, notices, humour, graffiti or wilful destruction, where the identity of the sender is unknown and is deliberately con- cealed from some people (LaNuez & Jermier, 1994; Prasad & Prasad, 2000). But resistant communication is often directed at a privileged few and hidden from others, particularly those in authority – the change leaders and managers.

When managers show their displeasure at overt employee resistance they often drive it under- ground (Bryant & Wolfram Cox, 2006). Covert resistance may be masked by overt compliance with some aspects of the change (Ezzamel et al., 2001; Prasad & Prasad, 2000), leading managers to believe that the change has been accepted. In summary, resistance to organizational change can be seen as a construct of many dimen- sions, which may overlap, and not all of which are easily discernible to observers or acknowledged by those resisting. Integrating all of the dimen- sions into a new theory of resistance, perhaps Once again, psychodynamic approaches have taken the view that while people may respond to life events in irrational ways, researchers cer- tainly do not presume this to be a default position (Bovey & Hede, 2001b). Emotions researchers have for years complained that almost all affective responses have been pejoratively labelled as irra- tional (e.g., Carr, 2001; Vince, 2006). If a down- sizing is announced, neither anxiety nor anger are irrational responses, nor are joy on receiv- ing a bonus or excitement at being promoted.

Emotions are often, but not always, derived quite logically from processes of cognition and interpre- tation (Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 1999). Expressing concern or gratitude to management in the above scenarios is rational behaviour. But, as Bovey and Hede (2001b) indicate, some forms of uncon- scious resistance can be seen as irrational and mal- adaptive ways of coping with change. Active/passive Many terms of active and passive resistance were noted earlier, with the former often being more visible, and most of them are focussed on behav- iour. Active resistance can take the form of out- right refusal or rebellion or it might manifest in complaints, queries and counter-suggestions.

While some theorists (e.g., Bovey & Hede, 2001a; Hultman, 2006) classify vocal opposi- tion as active resistance, Coetsee (1999), citing Judson, labels the voicing of opposing points of view as passive resistance but the voicing of strong opposing views as active resistance. Reluctant compliance, or the phrase used by Bacharach, Bamberger, and Sonnenstuhl (1996, p. 486), ‘submissive collaboration’, underlines one aspect of passive resistance that might be seen by man- agement as support for change. While the term passive resistance has a different connotation in politics, people may respond to organizational change with hesitation, forgetfulness or lethargy.

These may be unconscious manifestations of pas- sive resistance and have affective overtones but most of Hultman’s (2006) terms reflect a more deliberate approach, such as feigning ignorance or The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 833 leadership (Huy, 2001; Szabla, 2007; Van Dam, Oreg, & Schyns, 2008), inadequate rewards (Beer & Nohria, 2000), poor timing (Huy, 2001; Smollan et al., 2010), too much change (Palmer et al., 2009), certain personality traits (Oreg, 2006; Stanley, Meyer, & Topolnytsky, 2005), identity issues (Carr, 2001; Ezzamel et al., 2001; Van Dijk & van Dick, 2009), extra work (O’Connell Davidson, 1994), defence of indi- vidual and group interests (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991), complacency (Kotter, 1996), inertia (Butcher & Atkinson, 2001), uncertainty and insecurity (French, 2001) and misaligned organi- zational cultures (Smollan & Sayers, 2009; Van Dijk & van Dick, 2009). Multiple forms of resis- tance to change (or readiness) can be classified, according to Holt et al. (2007), into four main categories: content, process, context and individ- ual attributes.These causes apply as much to managers as they do to non-managers and the costs of resis- tance could be severe for all in the hierarchy who show it. Resistance to change is interwoven with the concepts of power and control (Mumby, 2005; Thomas et al., 2011) and even senior managers are not exempt from the inclinations of those even higher up the ladder. Bandler, Boyd, and Burke (2008, p. 45) note that Hank Greenberg, then CEO of the insurance giant, American International Group (AIG), ‘groomed two sons as successors then rode them so mercilessly that both left the company. Change was embraced at AIG, but not dissent. Early on, Greenberg dismissed internal resistance to his innovations as “the little thoughts that little men have”’. Ultimately, resis- tance to change is a term whose meaning is con- structed by one actor to denote that another is opposed to the change.

The social construction of resistance to change The linguistic turn (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2000) or discursive turn (Mumby, 2005; Prasad & Prasad, 2000) in organizational studies highlights the central role of language in understanding resulting in the construction of a new model, is beyond the scope of this article. In addition, the complexity of integrating multiple dimensions in a graphic model presents considerable challenges.

The matrix model of Bovey and Hede’s (2001a, 2001b) contains only a limited number of dimen- sions and even Piderit’s (1999, p. 21) respected 3D model of cognitive, affective and behavioural resistance is visually demanding. Who resists change and why A frame or schema of change (Chreim, 2007) is an image that lies in the eye of the beholder and so too is resistance. The tone of much of the practitioner literature is that it is ‘workers’ or non-managers who resist change implemented by management. What is often overlooked is that managers at all levels may also resist change (Brower & Abolafia, 1995; Giangreco & Peccei, 2005; Young, 2000). They may resist change mandated by their seniors (LaNuez & Jermier, 1994), or suggested by their staff (Spreitzer & Quinn, 1996) or peers. First-level employees may also resist change recommended by peers or union officials (Real & Putnam, 2005). Resistance may be an individual response to change but is also shown by departments, divisions, unions, pro- fessional groups (Ashcraft, 2005; Brunton & Matheny, 2009; Real & Putnam, 2005), other sub-cultural groups (Harris & Ogbonna, 1998; Kan & Parry, 2004) and a variety of outside stake- holders (Chreim, 2007). Organizations them- selves may resist change dictated by government (Binning, 2010) or by competitive and other external forces (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009).

The stereotype of who resists organizational change, and why, contributes to a lopsided but contested discourse. Employees have often been accused by management of ignorance, lazi- ness, stubbornness or destructive opposition (see Maurer, 2006). More reasoned accounts include a wide range of other factors, including loss (Wolfram Cox, 1997), injustice (Masterson, Lewis, Goldman, & Taylor, 2000), poor change management processes (Holt et al., 2007), poor Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 834 The language used by management can ‘animate’ change (Weick, 2011) or create confusion and opposition. Meaning is negotiated in organiza- tional discourses where different and contested views of the need for a change are promoted, defended and criticized (Thomas et al., 2011).

Butcher and Atkinson (2001) claim that the rational, managerialist jargon of change isolates management from the staff. Vann (2004) uses the term ‘clashing grammars’ to describe how private sector ideology infused the jargon of change in the development of new information technology systems in the public service. The sub-cultural differences about the perceived need for change were widened by the alien forms of language used by the managers (and IT consultants and provid- ers) in communicating the changes, and which caused much of the resistance.The stories or narratives (Czarniawska, 2004) employees (including managers) tell to other organizational actors or to researchers capture ‘reality’ at any given moment, but the accounts alter as the change(s) and other organizational events unfold over time. Reality is thus evanes- cent and elusive, subjectively modified and recon- stituted in various discourses. Each conversation – including those between researcher and respon- dent – has a purpose, or a number of purposes (Symon, 2005). From an epistemological stand- point, researchers following interpretive frames of thinking can seldom be sure of the ‘accuracy’ of respondents’ statements. Accuracy can be checked on only some details of a change. As Buchanan (2003, p. 16) puts it, ‘The notion of one unitary, accurate, authentic account of the change process and its outcomes is a delusion’. Workplace resistance is a social construction (Mumby, 2005), as is resistance to change (Ford, Ford, & McNamara, 2002; Real & Putnam, 2005) with diverse meanings invested by differ- ent organizational actors, and by researchers and other writers. For example, one person claims a comment indicates resistance, but another denies this, says it was merely the questioning of assump- tions or the posing of alternatives. The many organizational events, relationships and issues.

It forms part of the interpretive framework embodied in social constructionism. As asserted by Berger and Luckmann (1966), there is no single ‘reality’, whether in organizational or other spheres. Each person arrives at his or her own reality from personal experience, which is substantially created through social interaction.

Schwandt (2003) distinguishes between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ forms of social constructionism. The former takes the view that people’s understanding of the world is influenced by the many discourses they have been party to, a stance taken by Berger and Luckmann (1966). The latter, a position held by Gergen (1985) and Denzin (1997), is that discursive experience has determined people’s understanding. Discourse and conversation are taken as any form of oral and written communication and include body language, tone of voice, signs and symbols (Putnam & Fairhurst, 2001). Language does not merely reflect or mirror reality (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2000) or provide a window on real- ity, it is the reality (Gergen & Thatchenkerry, 2004). As Butcher and Atkinson (2001, p.

544) put it, ‘Language is at once socially con- structed and a framework for social construction’.

Meaning is derived from words which are given life by those who utter or write them and those who hear or read them and the meanings assigned to the same words may differ between sender and receiver. These direct subjective and inter-subjec- tive formulations are influenced by many other avenues of discourse that shape cognition, emo- tion, intention and action. Organizations are sites of discourse among and between different hierarchical levels and among and between internal and external stakeholders.

The discourses that take place are the prime means by which the actors make sense of organizational life (Bean & Hamilton, 2006). Change cues a new round of framing (Chreim, 2007) or sense-giving (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991) and sense-making (Balogun & Johnson, 2005), but also ‘generates moments of senselessness’ (Weick, 2011, p. 8). The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 835 2001; Dawson & Buchanan, 2005), but may be resisted by lower level staff in both formal dis- courses (Thomas et al., 2011) and private conver- sations (Bryant & Wolfram Cox, 2006).Those higher up the hierarchy are generally used to getting what they want. Therefore, the nature of their ‘resistance to the resistance’ of lower level staff depends partly on their own emo- tional control (Bargh & Williams, 2007; Bolton, 2005), partly on personality (Oreg, 2006) and partly on political skill (Buchanan & Badham, 2008). For example, when faced with staff resist- ing a change, managers who are able to control their frustration, who are not dogmatic and who are able to use appropriate tactics of influence, such as negotiation and consultation, may see merit in some of the opposition to change and adjust their plans accordingly. Being aware that language and behaviour can be constructed in different ways should ideally encourage change participants, observ- ers and writers to note and debate alternative interpretations. A second level of meaning is then ascribed to the statements in the conversa- tion. Debating the meaning of resistance may reduce the issue to one perceived as semantic if none of the parties are threatened by those questioning the change, posing alternatives or showing more direct opposition. If constructed as essential, helpful, irritating or distracting, the perceived reactions of others take on dif- ferent meanings for the various actors. Thus, while the discourse about resistance highlights its dialectical and potentially confrontational nature (Ford et al., 2002; Mumby, 2005), the outcomes of the meanings different orga- nizational actors attach to the term are more important. Given that the nature of resistance to change is contested and that multiple actors resist change for a wide variety of reasons, I sought to inter- view participants in organizational change on what forms of resistance were shown, who showed them and why, and how they were constructed by the participants.

terms denoting resistance that were referred to by Hultman (2006), Coetsee (1999), Bovey and Hede (2001a) reflect how the choice of words shapes our interpretation of behaviour, and its cognitive and emotional antecedents. Language thus becomes the vehicle to drive one’s point home.

Resistance to change has generally been con- structed as negative by managers and popular writers. In one magazine article Burge (2008) claims resistance is a ‘brickwall’ (p. 36) and a ‘dangerous roadblock to transformation’ (p. 38), while in another magazine Foote (2001, p. 36) labels resistance to change as ‘one of the nastiest, most debilitating workplace cancers … there isn’t a more potent, paradoxical or equal-opportunity killer of progress and good intentions’. According to Dent and Goldberg (1999) and Ford et al.

(2008), resistance has traditionally been seen as negative by those who lead and manage change, partly because it frustrates their goal achievement.

They seldom acknowledge that poor manage- ment may cause resistance to change or that they as managers also may resist aspects of a change. As Dent and Goldberg (1999, p. 37) observe, ‘The implicit assumption is that subordinate resis- tance is always inappropriate’. Some writers take a more enlightened approach that resistance may be constructive in that it signals problems about the change, reflects the engagement of others and may lead to more beneficial outcomes (e.g., Dent & Powley, 2003; Ford et al., 2008; Piderit, 2000). Dent and Goldberg (1999) and Waddell and Sohal (1998) maintain that writers on resistance have too often failed to distinguish between resis- tance to any change and resistance to a particular change. In a business magazine Colvin (2006, p. 40) goes as far as to assert that, ‘All change cre- ates winners and losers in an organization and the caveman part of our brains is still wired to defend against loss … So people almost always resist change’. Managers may also simply believe that employees will resist any type of change. Managerial power tends to dominate the fram- ing of the ‘public’ discourse (Butcher & Atkinson, Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 836 specifically about behaviour and last was about resistance:What actions were expected of you as a result of the change process?

What actions did you actually take as a result of the change process?

Why did you take these actions?

Did you resist the change and if yes, how?

Some of the participants were in management positions and were also asked if others had resisted the change. When participants claimed that they had not resisted the change they were reminded of previous statements they had made which I felt were indicative of resistance and the concept of resistance was revisited. I did not specifically ask how their managers had construed their reactions but some of them volunteered this information.

Data analysis Transcriptions of the interviews were read several times and notes were made on them that reflected the dimensions of resistance identified in the lit- erature review. While particular attention was paid to the questions relating to behaviour and resistance, comments were also made on the tran- scripts that referred to other questions, for exam- ple on injustice or the speed of change. A working table was drawn up that listed the 24 participants (coded from A to Y and excluding I) and con- tained key issues and quotes. An initial reading of the transcripts and the table clearly revealed the cognitive, affective and behavioural elements. I then looked for evidence of alignment or contradiction within and between them. Subsequent readings of the transcripts and tables led to an exploration of the other dimensions of resistance (conscious/unconscious, rational/ irrational, active/passive and overt/covert). A fuller picture of resistance began to emerge and was integrated into the analysis of the findings.

In terms of who resisted change, I checked the hierarchical levels of the participants and was able M ETHOD The participants I interviewed 24 participants in Auckland, New Zealand, in a 13-month period in 2006 and 2007 as part of a wider research study. I sought partici- pants from a variety of industries, organizations, functional departments and change contexts. The changes participants referred to included restruc- turing, downsizing, job redesign, relocation, new human resources systems and the advent of new owners and managers. Of the participants 11 were women and 13 were men, comprising 16 Whites/Europeans, two Maori, three Pacific Islanders and three Asians, and whose ages ranged from the 30s to the 50s. Given that the positions of the partici- pants ranged from senior executives to first-level staff, it was expected that the interviews would reveal different reports and constructions of resistance and provide evidence of which levels of staff had resisted change and why. From their descriptions of their positions there were three general managers, 10 senior managers, two mid- dle managers, two first-level managers and seven non-managers. This form of convenience sam- pling allowed for the processing of a sufficiently wide range of experiences of change and of per- ceptions of resistance.

Procedure The participants were sourced through manage- ment consultants and fellow academics so that I had no previous relationship with them. In the semi-structured interviews, which usually lasted between 60 and 90 min, a number of questions were asked that explored participants’ reactions to change. These related to the nature of out- comes, the scale of change, its speed, frequency and timing, fairness, leadership issues, personal factors (such as personality and previous expe- rience of change) and organizational culture.

Apart from their relevance to other aspects of the wider study, it was expected that these ques- tions might signal some evidence of resistance to change. Some of the later questions were The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 837 people were departing the organization’ (N); ‘anx- ious in the sense that there was a degree of uncer- tainty about whether I’d have a job’ (P); ‘guilt associated with people making decisions based on what you had or hadn’t told them’ (M); ‘angry about the fact they were taking away something that had worked so well’ (K); ‘hated it, it just wasn’t my sort of cup of tea’ (K). These emotions were experienced partly because of the partici- pants’ own outcomes, partly because of the way other actors had been treated.Behavioural resistance took the form of voic- ing concerns or raising questions – ‘Being reason- ably vocal about, well that’s not going to work’ (F), ‘I disagreed with it strongly’ (M); resigning – ‘I negotiated an exit’ (O); ‘We negotiated me leav- ing’ (H); – taking legal action: ‘I actually brought in a lawyer because they wanted me to go’ (D), ‘We had three mediations at the Employment Court’ (V). The other dimensions of resistance often over- lap and therefore they are not presented sepa- rately. The above quotes indicate active forms of resistance which by nature are behavioural.

Comments by the participants about their behav- iour and that of others they referred to revealed forms of passive resistance, such as apathy and inertia. While P still did her best during the change process, she admitted that after verbal protests had run their course she ‘disengaged’.

This term, and others used by respondents, such as ‘disenfranchised’ and ‘disenchanted’, may have reflected passive and unconscious forms of resis- tance to the change when it was experienced. While the focus of the study was on the respon- dents’ own responses to change, some of those who had the roles of change leaders and manag- ers commented on the behavioural resistance of other employees that went beyond ‘voice’ or ‘exit’.

They indicated varying degrees of apathy, active, passive and aggressive resistance and ambivalence.

Participant R was the human resources manager of a professional services firm undergoing a series of changes. According to her, the partners resented a perceived loss of status as the organization to find evidence of resistance at all organizational levels. Comments on the transcripts were also highlighted where they provided some evidence of how resistance had been constructed. FINDINGS The findings are presented in the three sections that address the aims of the study. The first con- cerns the multi-dimensional nature of resistance to organizational change. Here I start by taking a look at the experiences of many of the 24 partici- pants to identify various perceptions of their own resistance, and that of others, to an organizational change. The goal is to provide a broad picture of the types of resistance in terms of the dimensions identified in the literature review. Given that the cognitive, affective and behavioural forms of resis- tance reflect elements of the other dimensions the first grouping is presented in more detail. To pro- vide a closer link between the various dimensions, and to provide some context, the second part of this section contains four selected case studies. I then present the findings on who resisted change and how they constructed the term.

The multi-dimensional nature of resistance to change Cognitive resistance was evident in a number of statements by interviewees that they had dis- agreed with various aspects of the change, for example, the form of the change – ‘I thought a restructure was required, I just didn’t think this was the right one’ (M); the motives – ‘you had to resist the pressure to make it [job redesign and redundancy] about performance, resist the pressure to make it about personalities’ (Q); the outcomes – ‘in terms of remuneration I am not as well off ’ (C); the viability of the processes – ‘we were very clear about what we thought would work and wouldn’t work’ (P); the fairness of the processes – ‘I never had the chance to state my case’ (J) and the fairness of the outcomes – ‘our function was being devalued’ (P).

Many participants revealed affective resistance to change: ‘sadness around the fact that these Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 838 (1999) continuum of resistance behaviours – apathy, active resistance, and passive resistance – which was also used empirically by Lapointe and Rivard (2005). No provision was made for his category of aggressive resistance, since there were no participants who admitted to committing such acts. However, a category of ambivalence was added since this is a common response, accord- ing to Piderit (2000) and there was considerable evidence of it in the current study. I overlaid this initial classification with Piderit’s analysis of resistance as cognitive, affective and intentional/ behavioural. I also took account of Bovey and Hede’s (2001a, 2001b) matrix which encompasses active–passive and overt–covert dimensions, as well as the other dimensions of resistance that could be inferred from the interview material.Four participants were chosen to present exam- ples of apathy, passive resistance, active resistance and ambivalence. Short quotes are presented that indicate the relationships between the cognitive, affective and behavioural elements, followed by an analysis of why they reacted in those ways. I then briefly explain why these responses have been classified in one of the four categories of resistance. Elements of some of the other dimen- sions of resistance are briefly noted. The classification of forms of resistance was not a tidy exercise since elements of other forms complicated the choice. For example, A did speak out against elements of the change but continued to act ‘professionally’. This could be construed as active resistance but the overall tone of the interview was one of reluctant submission to the inevitable. B was opposed to many elements of the redundancy process, spoke her mind strongly (a sign of active resistance) but went out of her way to produce what she thought was a bet- ter process. This is an example of ambivalence because there is a considerable mismatch between the cognitive, affective and behavioural elements.

While these four examples capture the essence of the categories of resistance, they are not meant to provide a full picture of their responses to differ- ent aspects of an organizational change – or of a moved to a more corporate structure and reacted in semi-unconscious ways. She reflected, ‘There were definitely some reactions that were negative, like shutting down or just retreating. What emo- tion would drive that? They just thought, it will go away if I ignore it’.

G reported that following the announcement of redundancies in one organization, several employees took out personal grievances (overt and active resistance) and engaged in acts of arson and theft, evidence of active (covert but visible signs of aggressive resistance). Another example of active, overt and visible resistance was recalled by W, a senior manager. One employee had tried hard to obstruct a change in a remuneration schedule by irrationally, so W implied, demanding to be paid in cash rather than by direct bank transfer. E, a senior HR manager, observed that those opposed to a change sometimes take political action to support their cause, which could be viewed as overt or covert forms of resistance: ‘People try and garner support in the backblocks … or solicit oth- ers to work on their behalf ’. Some were cautious in how they discussed their opposition to a change. Some respondents discussed their complaints with their colleagues but not with management because they felt apprehensive about the outcomes. For example, X, who was a first-level employee, said that he dis- cussed issues with his peers but if people protested or even raised questions in more public arenas, they were considered rebels and were victimized.

Thus several forms of resistance were visible to some actors but not to others. While the findings presented above show the breadth of participant responses they cannot reveal the complexities, ambiguities and contexts that characterize the experience of change. In the second stage of this section of the findings I there- fore provide expanded accounts of the experiences of a selected number of interviewees. For ease of comparison these are presented in tabular form (see Table 1). In developing the Table 1 developed a typol- ogy of responses based on elements of Coetsee’s The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 839 TABLE 1: F OUR EXPERIENCES OF RESISTANCE TO ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE Apathy (A)Passive resistance (X) Active resistance (D) Ambivalence (B) Background The participant was a senior manager.

Following a restructuring, his role was changed without consultation to one that had little interest for him.

As a manager who had previously been consulted on major decisions he now felt marginalised. His new role also undermined his sense of identity. The participant was a first-level employee who was overlooked for promotion as part of an organizational expansion. He deeply resented the nepotism he perceived in the promotion decision and could not contain his emotion when he confronted his supervisor.

The participant was a professional who was informed that her line of work would be discontinued.

She could choose to move into another role or be made redundant that day.

She refused to leave immediately since she perceived this would appear to be a dismissal.The company outsourced a function and made staff redundant. Before employees were informed personally, the CEO unilaterally decided to contact the media. The participant was a junior HR staff member who decided to send letters, before the media release, to all those to be laid off.

Response Cognitive ‘I don’t think that the changes made were the right changes’.

‘The things that I identified strongly with and did very well were taken away and not by my choice’. ‘Her father was someone in the hierarchy there so she got the position.

… that person was not senior to me’.

‘My supervisor lied to me … I could never trust her anymore’. ‘I certainly wasn’t costing the company anything. I was producing good results’.

‘I stuck my heels in because [immediate redundancy] would impact on my reputation’.‘He had not honoured the agreement that we’d had and therefore had undermined the employees’.

‘I felt I was being used’.

Affective ‘I was feeling disenfranchised … disenchanted … disempowered. I felt a very large erosion in sense of belonging and so I felt sad about it.’ ‘That dishonesty I didn’t like’.

‘It was like an emotional breakdown that happened’.

‘I was shocked … I wanted I wanted to sit there and howl my eyes out … I was so emotional and so angry and stubborn’.‘I was furious, absolutely furious. I felt compromised. I felt a bit dirty, like I had been sullied. I felt like I sold my soul to the devil’.

Behavioural ‘I didn’t really express my dissatisfaction at the time because as far as I was concerned it was a fait accompli.

There was no point’.

‘I acted as professionally as I could all the way’. ‘I said, why wasn’t I given that position?’ ‘I cried’ [in a meeting with the supervisor].

‘I made a decision that I’m not going to work for [the organization] anymore’. ‘I will not go like that. I want notice and so because I refused I decided I had to get a lawyer’.

‘I lost my temper … absolutely blew up’.

‘I had to work literally overnight, by myself, to get the letters out to a thousand people’.

Participant reason for behaviour ‘I had given up on reminding the GM because he hadn’t delivered and I didn’t believe he would’.

‘It’s what the company employs me to do’. ‘They had betrayed trust’.

‘If you complained you became a target … and a target is always hit upon’.

‘I stuck my heels in I’m afraid because any of that would impact on my reputation and that I guard that very jealously’.‘I had an overwhelming sense of a need to please … and responsibility. If some gave me a task I took it incredibly seriously … I was being paid to do it … so I couldn’t go and say what I really thought’.

(Continued) Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 840 Apathy (A)Passive resistance (X) Active resistance (D) Ambivalence (B) Analysis The participant carried on performing but felt apathetic about what he saw was a diminished and unsatisfactory role.

Apathy may have been an unconscious form of resistance. A mismatch between the negative cognitive and affective responses and a positive behavioural response also shows some evidence of ambivalence. Questioning a supervisor was a deliberate, but mild, form of active resistance. Crying in her presence was spontaneous, probably semiconscious, active and overt resistance.

The participant’s resignation was a form of covert passive resistance to both outcome and process.

The behaviour constituted active resistance that was conscious and overt, and it was consistent with the cognitive and affective resistance. It was about both the outcomes and the processes of change.

Losing her temper was unconscious and overt resistance but the tasks undertaken could look like conscious, overt and active support but was only expended in the interests of the staff. Cognitive and affective resistance did not manifest in an overt, behavioural form of resistance.

The mixed response is ambivalent. TABLE 1: C ONTINUED set of changes. Over the periods of change, levels of resistance and support oscillated in terms of thought, emotion and action, and reflect a more dynamic experience than the static images in the table.

Who resisted change Resistance of some type was demonstrated by almost all participants. Even some very senior executives were subject to the power of others and reacted negatively. For example, H was a general manager of an organization until demoted as a result of a takeover. She resented the appointment of a less experienced and qualified outsider as her boss and the creation of a more elitist and sexist organizational culture. While previously she exer- cised considerable authority, in the new regime she felt marginalized.

Managers at other levels resisted change for a number of reasons, some because they felt that the content of their jobs was less stimulating, some because they too lost status and power.

With reference to the way the change was man- aged, M resented the abusive communication style of the CEO. S expected more support from her own boss ‘in terms of the implementation and managing the pains that we went through’.

P was unhappy with what she had been asked to do in a restructuring and reported, ‘My role was to provide input into a process. I refused to have any responsibility to try to implement and sup- port its management so that was other people’s responsibility, not mine’. A number of manag- ers resisted aspects of change when they were not allowed to reveal confidential information. They felt guilty because of this and admitted that they had been forced to lie to staff about upcoming changes.

First-level employees also resisted change when they obtained unfavourable and unfair outcomes and through unfair or poorly-managed processes.

One complained that change resulted in overload, another that she had to contend for a role with another employee until management decided who would get a permanent role. Those who were made redundant, and one who was dismissed, were also clearly angry and unhappy. What was also interesting was that people were also con- cerned for other staff and resisted change that dis- advantaged them. The social construction of resistance to change Within behavioural responses to change there were notable differences in what participants construed as resistant. Most seemed to equate The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 841 was also some resistance to change that surfaced in all other dimensions. It is interesting that only two respondents refused outright to accept an element of a change. First, although D could do nothing about stopping her redundancy, she refused to leave immediately, sought legal advice and negotiated a more satisfactory date. Second, V initially used a more covert form of resistance by contacting external stakeholders he believed would be disadvantaged by an organizational change. When he was suspended and later fired because of these actions, he took legal steps, even- tually won his court case and secured compensa- tion. The findings have thus uncovered a range of dimensions of resistance to change. They also provide evidence that resistance was shown at var- ious hierarchical levels and that there were vary- ing interpretations of the meaning of the word resistance.

DISCUSSION The objectives of the study were to seek evi- dence of different dimensions of resistance to change, to identify who resisted change and why, and to explore how participants con- structed the term resistance. The many types of resistance to change that were found confirmed the multiple concepts of resistance listed in the literature review. The findings support earlier research that resistance can be cognitive, affec- tive and behavioural/intentional (Oreg, 2006; Piderit, 2000; Szabla, 2007); show signs of the rational/irrational and conscious/uncon- scious facets (Bovey & Hede, 2001b; Carr, 2001); be overt and covert (Bovey & Hede, 2001a, 2001b); and range from apathy to more aggressive forms of resistance (Coetsee, 1999; Lapointe & Rivard, 2005).What is especially important to note is that ambivalence characterized many of the par- ticipants’ responses to change. Piderit (2000) emphasizes that there could be differences both within the cognitive, affective and behavioural/ intentional dimensions and between them.

While this line of thinking is not disputed resistance with refusal to do what was required; therefore, many denied that they had resisted the change. On further probing, however, or even on reminding them of what they had said earlier in the interview, many did acknowledge that they had spoken out against aspects of the change.

Some were surprised that this might be termed resistance. Respondents’ remarks testify to the effort they put in to debating planned changes and dissuading the leaders from implementing them. Resistance to change in these cases was active, overt and visible dissent or reluctance – but not refusal. Several managers indicated that although they were opposed to aspects of the change, they only voiced opposition in man- agement meetings. Once a course of action had been agreed, they tended to view compliance as either a question of teamwork, or as one of professionalism.

I resisted the way that it was done and that was when I had a long discussion with the chair- man. I spoke my mind professionally on sev- eral occasions … it’s not resisting it. I suppose it’s just challenging it. (L) I fully put my case early on … I tend to be a vigorous debater … I resisted it from a debat- ing point of view … but once it was decided, no … In a business you can’t have rogue senior managers. They should leave … You need to support the business, that’s what you are paid for. I didn’t talk about my personal feel- ings about it because that wouldn’t have been appropriate, because that would have under- mined the process. (M) Being reasonably vocal about, well that’s not going to work. What was intended here? How can we happily still do what we were expected to do under the circumstances? So it was a questioning, challenging sort of strategy, I guess. (F) To summarise the findings, they mainly reflect the cognitive, affective, behavioural elements and forms of active and passive resistance, but there Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 842 The range of reasons for resistance of the participants also confirms previous research that it can be due to factors such as loss (Wolfram Cox, 1997), injustice (Lamertz, 2002; Masterson et al., 2000), poor leadership (Szabla, 2007) and insecu- rity (French, 2001). One reason several manag- ers in the current study resisted some aspects of the change was because they resented the loss of power and authority that change had brought.

For some this took the form of being cut out of decision-making processes, a key element of pro- cedural justice (Lamertz, 2002). For others a loss in status exacerbated emotions from obtaining less favourable material outcomes, such as reduced remuneration. This goes to the identity issues which researchers have found are key affect-related factors in resistance to change (e.g., Carr, 2001; Ezzamel et al., 2001; Van Dijk & van Dick, 2009).

In these new situations the managers in the pres- ent study had the roles of change recipients, rather than of change leaders or change managers. The types of resistance presented in the find- ings are largely my interpretations of resistance.

When asked whether they had resisted change most interviewees implied that resistance was behaviour. This was unsurprising given that in the interview the resistance question followed other questions specifically about behavioural responses. That said, some denied that they had resisted the change, despite the fact that they had spoken out against the change, either to their own managers or to their colleagues. Some revealed that one reason they had resigned from their orga- nization was because of the change but they did not seem to consider this as resistance. By impli- cation, resistance was seen as refusal or some form of subversion. Mumby (2005, p. 31) observes that ‘the interpretive ambiguity in power-control rela- tionships means that certain behaviors can have multiple meanings … and specific forms of resis- tance may not be fully transparent either to either the workers engaged in them or to the managers trying to attenuate their efforts’. It is conceivable that managers in the study could interpret the questioning of change strategies as a constructive (e.g., French, 2001), it is often overlooked in studies of resistance to change in which responses are neatly pigeon-holed as support or resistance.

While this article is about resistance to change it should be noted that participants often revealed in the interviews that they had supported the change itself, or various aspects of it. Even those who were highly enthusiastic about the change in general had negative thoughts and feelings about aspects of it and some took intervening action.

The findings also achieved the second aim of the empirical work by showing that organi- zational actors at different hierarchical levels resisted change. In contrast to some stereotypes that it is first-level employees who resist change, a number of respondents who were leading and managing change, some at senior levels, had been opposed to some aspects of change, usu- ally for the same types of reasons as other staff.

The resistance of managers has been documented by Brower and Abolafia (1995), Spreitzer and Quinn (1996), Young (2000) and others. Indeed, since they had expected to be consulted on orga- nizational decisions some of my respondents, including those in very senior positions, had been particularly incensed when they were not consulted about a change or some aspect of it.

A number observed that they had been prepared to promote their views, quite strongly in some cases, in management meetings, but that in front of other staff it was necessary – and professional – to openly support the change. Competing nar- ratives (Czarniawska, 2004) may be tolerated, if not welcomed, in the management meeting, but only one formal narrative is expected to leave it. Professionalism is a social construct that binds adherents to certain types of actions and constrains them from others (Fournier, 1999; Roberts, 2005). While a manager’s perception of professionalism is not only formed from a need to conform, it can become one of the bars of the ‘iron cage’ of organizational life (Barker, 1993; Mumby, 2005; Prasad & Prasad, 2000) and thus be taken for granted. The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 843 disparities become even more apparent. Some participants felt the need to hide their emotions, possibly because this would be regarded as resis- tance. The literature on emotional labour, the need to show ‘appropriate’ emotion and hide ‘inappropriate’ emotions in organizational set- tings, shows how this form of control erodes the willingness to voice discontent with change (Bryant & Wolfram Cox, 2006; Turnbull, 1999) and implicitly coerces employees into publicly declaring support for change or showing some form of compliance. However, this does not mean that a discourse about resistance in the relative safety of a research interview should have such a narrow focus. Perceptions of the impact of emotional labour, and its relationship to power, might subconsciously influence participants in change to construct resistance as refusal, rather than as less overt and wilful obstruction of the process, which would have had less severe conse- quences for them. There was evidence of Prasad and Prasad’s (2000) concept of ‘naming resis- tance’, whereby people label others as resistant.

In the current study, participants in management positions easily identified resistant behaviours in others. This makes it even more curious that they hesitated in ‘owning’ that some of their own responses were resistant.

CONTRIBUTIONS, LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH DIRECTIONS The paper contributes to the literature by iden- tifying narrow conceptions of resistance to organizational change and by presenting evi- dence of the many dimensions of resistance that underline the complexity and contradictions of employee responses. The current study has also reinforced the notion that it not just ‘workers’ who resist change, managers at various levels also do. It also indicates that organizational actors have socially constructed notions of what resistance means. There are a number of limitations to this empirical investigation. Firstly, the individ- ual stories presented in the findings are in the form of challenging their leaders, rather than what might be seen more negatively as resisting.

Apart from probing their answers on their own resistance, I did not engage with my participants on why they believed some of their acts were not evidence of resistance. Prasad and Prasad (2000) describe ‘owning resistance’ as the admission by organizational actors that their behaviour is delib- erately resistant. They comment that this form of resistance serves to affirm a sense of identity of employees as autonomous individuals. Discourse on resistance covers conversations inside organi- zations facing change, in education and training courses, in literature on change and in informal conversations inside and outside work. For exam- ple, one participant (W), a senior HR manager with considerable experience of organizational change, used a concept developed by Bridges (2003) and admitted that he had read this some- where. In a question on the pace of change in his organization, he acknowledged his frustration that some of the staff were taking too long to ‘get the message’. It was implied that this could be due to some form of resistance. He used Bridges metaphor of change – ‘the marathon effect’ – to depict how front-runners in large city marathons have made considerable progress down the road while those at the back have not yet started. Other interviewees would also have been exposed to oral and written discourses about resistance in mul- tiple contexts and thereby developed their own constructions. Discourse within an organization is promoted or constrained by perceptions of power (Thomas et al., 2011). The view of some participants that they were careful in what they said mirrors the findings of several authors and reflects the power of management to dictate the ‘public’ discourse on change within the organization (Butcher & Atkinson, 2001; Dawson & Buchanan, 2005).

As Symon (2005) notes, rhetoric has a purpose, and when the rhetoric about change – and spe- cifically about expected support for change – is controlled by management, resistance is driven underground. In dyadic relationships power Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 844 Middle East have signalled how broader social forces can influence organizational as well as political changes and resistance to them. While aspects of organizational culture and leadership formed part of the current study, and shed some light on expectations of behaviour and the con- sequences for not abiding by them, resistance to change cannot adequately be researched without taking account of the broader national, organiza- tional, departmental and individual contexts and histories.Fourthly, further research is necessary to explore the emotions of resistance. Oreg (2006), Piderit (2000) and Szabla (2007) have pointed out that resistance to change has cognitive, affec- tive and behavioural dimensions but most of the literature on resistance has ignored or glossed over the importance of emotion. Its relevance in change has been documented (e.g., Bovey & Hede, 2001a, 2001b; Carr, 2001; Smollan et al., 2010; Vince, 2002) but there is little literature that specifically addresses the concept of resis- tance. Emotional intelligence in the management of change has been called for (e.g., Vince, 2006) but has attracted little empirical work and has not engaged the concept of resistance. Understanding one’s own emotions and those of others, and responding appropriately, provides participants in change, particularly managers, with a range of skills that help to detect and address affec- tive responses that might be barriers to change.

Resistance to change is created and modified in conversations. Many of the conversations are emotionally loaded. A number of participants in the current study noted the phenomenon of emo- tional contagion, the process whereby negative (and positive) emotions are generated in discourse (Barsade, 2002; Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993) but this has been insufficiently explored in studies of resistance to change. While the dis- cursive elements of sense-making in change have been better understood (Balogun & Johnson, 2005; Bean & Hamilton, 2006; Thomas et al., 2011), the interplay between cognition, emo- tion and action (Lazarus, 1991; Piderit, 2000) in form of brief, selected and fragmented quotes.

They therefore cannot reveal the complexity of changes that are ‘ill-defined flows and patterns of action in specific organizational contexts, characterized by untidy, politicized and iterative change processes driven by a range of actors’ (Dawson & Buchanan, 2005, p. 850). More extensive ideographic accounts in a narrative approach would uncover the multi-dimensional and oscillating responses to change and their specific contexts.

Secondly, while I was able to find examples of many forms of resistance it was not clear what participants saw as resistance in themselves or others. While I asked the specific question whether participants had resisted the change, I did not explore their beliefs about the nature of resistance. Therefore I could not discover how they had arrived at such constructions. Nor did I ask how resistance to change was dealt with in their organizations and how this had influenced their responses to change, or those of others. My observations are in many cases inferred from the interview material. Further research through in- depth interviews on resistance to change would help in explicating these issues. Thirdly, a small sample of 24 participants in one country cannot adequately uncover the influ- ence of nationality, ethnicity, gender, age and other demographic factors. Organizational cul- ture and leadership have been found to produce important differences in understanding organi- zational life, and change (e.g., Vandenberghe, 1999) and the concept of resistance – and talk about resistance – must be seen through these lenses too (e.g., Yukl, Fu, & McDonald, 2003).

It was not the intention of the current study to link demographic factors to issues to resistance to change but these may reveal important per- spectives in further research. Furthermore, while change is one context of organizational resis- tance it may be characteristic of a broader form of opposition to many routine aspects of orga- nizational life (Mumby, 2005; Prasad & Prasad, 2000). Recent events in North Africa and the The multi-dimensional nature of resistance Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION 845 Firstly, managers should note that resistance has multiple dimensions but that people tend to make judgments, perhaps quite naturally, based on observable behaviour. Looking beneath the surface of behaviour will produce insights that responses to change are complex, and depend on many possible factors in the individual, leader– follower relationships and organizational cultures and contexts. Secondly, assuming that people resist change per se is unhelpful. Studies in dispositional resistance to change reveal a wide spectrum of responses (e.g., Oreg, 2006; Stanley et al., 2005).

Some organizational actors may be disinclined to deal with change in general but may but may be happy to accept a specific change they perceive will provide distinct benefits and no disadvantages. In addition, they may accept some parts of a change and resist others. Thirdly, managers need to acknowledge that resistance to change can be found at all levels of the organization, and as Spreitzer and Quinn (1996) point out, that managers too may resist changes, including those suggested from below.

They therefore need to reflect on how they them- selves react to change and what forms their own resistance may take. Finally, as a number of authors have noted (e.g., Dent & Powley, 2003; Ford et al., 2008), resistance may have positive aspects to it that could aid management in making better decisions and in addressing employee concerns. Engaging with employees, rather than trying to overcome resistance, will lead to more productive change- related outcomes and to better organizational relationships. How managers talk about reactions to change, therefore, contributes to more posi- tives discourses. In conclusion, deconstructing the nature of resis- tance, with its fine-grained distinctions and nuances, may be a useful topic for organizational scientists to explore in the ivory tower of academia. However, it may be of little value at the coalface or in the board- room unless organizational actors understand what discourse about resistance to change needs further empirical development.

Fifthly, it is not easy in a relatively short one-off interview for a researcher to make an informed judgement of some of the dimen- sions of resistance, such as whether the resis- tance was conscious or rational. Psychodynamic approaches have explored the emotional content of change (Carr, 2001; French, 2001) and cog- nitive approaches have investigated degrees of consciousness in the processing of information (e.g., Bargh & Chartrand, 1999). Since resistance to change is not necessarily conscious and inten- tional these two streams of research can add rich- ness to the study of aspects of resistance that are not well understood. A series of interviews with the same respondent is an approach that could yield promising results in some of the greyer areas of resistance to change. Finally, given that the use of language is a central epistemological theme of this paper, I am aware that my constructions of these terms were influential in deciding which responses were coded as resistant. As an academic researcher in organizational change I am clearly in the ‘privileged’ or ‘contaminated’ position of being familiar with many academic and non-academic discourses about change – and discourses about discourses! I am aware that the narratives in the participants’ answers were framed for the particular purposes of the interview and would likely have been different to the narratives about change – and support and resistance – within their own organizations. IMPLICATIONS FOR MANAGEMENT Dent and Goldberg (1999) caution against the self-fulfilling prophecy of resistance to change because if managers believe that it is inevitable and likely to arise from recalcitrant subordinates, they will seek to overcome it in inappropriate ways. Some of the findings from the current study signal that a more informed understand- ing of the term by managers could have several implications. Roy K Smollan JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT & ORGANIZATION Volume 17, Issue 6, November 2011 846Barker, J. (1993). Tightening the iron cage:

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