Piderit (2000) believes that the definition of the term resistance must incorporate a much broader scope. She states that “a review of past empirical research reveals three different emphases in conceptualizations of resistance: as a cognitive state, as an emotional state, and as a behavior” (p. 784).
The notion that employee resistance can be overcome cognitively suggests that negative thoughts or beliefs about the change exist. Piderit sites, “Watson (1982) who suggests that what is often labeled as resistance is, in fact, only reluctance. Armenakis, Harris, and Mossholder (1993) define resistance in behavioral terms but suggest that another state precedes it: is a cognitive state they call (un)-readiness” (2000, p. 785).
Others attempt to define employee resistance based on the emotional factors exhibited as a result of organizational change. From their early study, Coch and French (1948) acknowledged aggression and frustration in employees as the emotional factors that caused undesirable behaviors and resistance to change. Argyris and Schon (1974, 1978) noted that resistance to change is a defense mechanism caused by frustration and anxiety (Piderit, 2000).
The final aspect of Piderit’s conceptualization focuses on individual behavior in an attempt to define employee resistance to change. She cites Brower and Abolafia (1995) who define resistance as a particular kind of action or inaction. Ashforth and Mael (1998) define resistance as intentional acts of commission (defiance) or omission. Shapiro, Lweicki, and Devine (1995) suggest that willingness to deceive authorities constitutes resistance to change (2000).
Piderit (2000) claims that: although these conceptualizations of overlap somewhat, they diverge in important ways. Finding a way to bring together these varying emphases should deepen our understanding of how employees respond to proposed organizational changes. Each of these three conceptualizations of resistance – as a behavior, an emotion, or a belief – has merit and represents an important part of our experience of response to change. Thus, any definition focusing on one view at the expense of the others seems incomplete (p. 785).
According to Dent & Goldberg (1999), individuals aren’t really resisting the change, but rather they may be resisting the loss of status, loss of pay, or loss of comfort. They claim that, “it is time that we dispense with the phrase resistance to change and find a more useful and appropriate models for describing what the phrase has come to mean – employees are not wholeheartedly embracing a change that management wants to implement” (p. 26).
IN YOUR OWN WORDS:
What is your understanding of these three types of resistance (use your own words)? Give an example of each type. Using the “How to deal with resistance to change” article, suggest some ways you could deal with resistance.