Individual Sources: Habit – To copy with life’s complexities, we rely on habits or programmed responses. But when confronted with change, this tendency to respond in our accustomed ways becomes a source of resistance.
Security: People with a high need for security are likely to resist change because it threatens the feelings of safety.
Economic factors – Changes in job tasks or established work routines can arouse economic fears if people are concerned that they won’t be able to perform the new tasks or routing to their previous standard, especially when pay is closely tied to productivity.
Fear of the unknown: Change substitutes ambiguity and uncertainty for the unknown.
Selective information processing – Individuals are guilty of selectively processing information in order to keep their perceptions intact. They hear what they want to hear and they ignore information that challenges the world they have created.
Structural inertia – Organization have built-in mechanisms like their selection processes and formalized regulations to produce stability. When an organization is confronted with change, this structural inertia acts as a counterbalance to sustain stability.
Limited focus of change: Organizations are made of a number of interdependent subsystems. One can’t be changed without affecting the others. So limited changes in sub-system tend to be nullified by the larger system.
Group inertia: Even if individuals want to change their behavior, group norms may act as a constraint.
Threat to expertise: changes in organizational patterns may threaten the expertise of specialized groups.
Threat to established power relationship: Any redistribution of decision making authority can threaten long established power relationships within the organization.
Threat to established resource allocations: Groups in the organization that control sizable resources often see changes as a threat. They tend to be content with the way things are.
One of the most well documented findings from studies of individual and organizational behavior is that organizations and their members resist change. In a sense, this is positive. It provides a degree of stability and predictability of behavior. If there weren’t some resistance, organizational behavior would take on the characteristics of choice randomness. Resistance to change can also be a source of functional conflict. For example, resistance to an organization plan or a change in a product line can simulate a healthy debate over the merits of the idea and result in a better decision. But there is a define downside to resistance to change. It hinders adaptation and progress.
Resistance to change doesn’t necessarily surface in standardized ways. Resistance can be overt, implicit, immediate or deferred. It’s easiest for management to deal with resistance when it is overt and immediate. For instance, a change is proposed and employees quickly respond by voicing complaints, engaging in a work slowdown, threatening to go on strike, or the like. The greater challenge is managing resistance that is implicit or deferred. Implicit resistance efforts are more subtle, loss of loyalty to the organization, loss of motivation to work, increased errors or mistakes, increased absenteeism due to sickness and hence are more difficult to recognize. Similarly deferred actions cloud the link between the sources of the resistance and the reaction to it. A change may produce what appears to be only a minimal reaction at the time it is initiated, but then resistance surfaces weeks, months, or even years later. A single change that in and of itself might have little impact becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Reactions to change can build up and then explode in some response that seems totally out of proportion to the change of action it follows. The resistance of course, has merely been deferred and stockpiled. What surfaces is a response to an accumulation of pervious changes.