Resistance to organizational change: Successful implementation of change through effective communication

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2011

17 Pages, Grade: none



Organizations have been passing through transition phase over time. Some organizations have failed to transform, while others have successfully implemented their desired change. Previous literature has focused on the rationale behind the failure as well as the success of these organizations. Literature concluded that the resistance of employees serves to be a major factor behind the failure of any organization, willing to implement change. Further, researchers found that this resistance can be lessen by applying suitable communication techniques to align employees with the coming change according to the culture of organization and employees. For the purpose of alignment, a charismatic leader is required who has the potential to eradicate the gaps between the concerns of top management and its employees. This paper draws attention towards the causes of resistance; the impact of culture dimensions on organizational change and management decisions, and examines how communication being a major factor can overcome resistance by employees. This article eventually recommends that a charismatic leadership can bring change with the consent of the followers and that is mainly due to the attributes associated with leader's traits. Consequently, this article proposes the methodology that brings a happy ending to a change process. This study provides future research and implications for managers, dealing with change.

Keywords: organizational change, resistance to change, charismatic leadership


To start with, we will discuss what we are dealing with in this article. Our vision, as an organization, is to apply change and our mission is to successfully implement the desired change. In simple words, we are looking forward to have a happy ending to an organizational change process. For this purpose we will have to look into the details of what are the reasons of change, what possible causes may be behind the resistance to organizational change, what role does culture play, how effective is charismatic leadership in change process, and how an organization can successfully implement change?

Literature Review

In this era of globalization, organizations continuously need to change in order to compete in the business world. The change process may initiate due to many reasons and has never been simple for any organization. Change in an organization can be recognized as perfection approach such as building effective teams or total quality management as well as can be available in form of restructuring and reengineering (Nadler, 1995). As described by some scholars, deregulations and many other environmental changes create a requirement for the adaption of strategic change (Eisenhardt, 1989).

Research scholars have investigated and analyzed many organizations passing through this change process and have provided the reasons for resistance to organizational change. According to industry experience and research, organizational members cope with change by passing through denial and resistance (Jaffe, 1994). In case change has emerged due to economic downfall, individuals expect to bear loss rather anticipate any gain (Rousseau, 1999). Employees tend to interpret change negatively, for three main reasons; individuals prefer to remain in a known situation than the unknown, secondly as change may bring gain or loss individuals tend to psychologically experience loss greater than gain and lastly individuals tend to be more content to the existing entitlements in times of change (Heath, 1993). Furthermore, employees may resist to organizational change because of their high stress and concerns for job security. This stress level is caused by the changes in workplace demands and uncertainty (Bedeian, 1999). Every organization has a worth in industry due to the human resource they possess. Therefore, organizations need to keep their employees satisfied as a major barrier in successfully implementing change is considered to be the resistance of employees. Organization's management has practiced different technique in order to resolve the dilemma of employee resistance. But of all, the key issue is the impact of cultural requirements on management decisions (Hofstede, 1983). Management must be concerned with the national culture while making decisions for the company due to three reasons; as the political, sociological and psychological aspect of the national culture plays a vital role in setting organizational behaviors. The political aspect elucidates that nations act as political units. They have their own history, institutions, government forms, legal and educational systems, and most of all labor and employer's association systems (Hofstede, 1983). While transforming organizations from one phase to another, management needs to understand that their employees have their own existing roots according to which they may respond differently. The second most important aspect of studying national cultures is the sociological aspect. Nationality serves to have a symbolic meaning to the citizens. Individuals still may go on war if they feel that their identity is in threat (Hofstede, 1983). Therefore, management also needs to cater the employee need of keeping their identity alive. The third reason behind considering national culture is the psychological aspect. Individual perceptions are intensely conditioned by the culture of nation. This conditioning differentiates nations from each other, as it affects the individual's life experiences (Hofstede, 1983). Besides classifying the nations as per political, sociological and psychological aspect, Hofstede, a management scholar, has categorized nations according to four dimensions. These four dimensions are Individualism/ Collectivism; Power Distance; Uncertainty Avoidance; and Masculinity/ Femininity Later, Long term orientation as the fifth dimension was also included (Bond, 1988). Recently, two more dimensions have been added in Hofstede's work. These new dimensions are Indulgence versus restraint and monumentalism versus flexumility (Minkov, 2007). From the above discussion it is clear that individuals across cultures exhibit different living standards and they prefer to stay in their comfort zone.

The present research focuses on the effectiveness of communication technique in implementing change while exploring the cultural aspects to be aligned with the change process plan. Schweiger and Denisi have investigated the impact of communication techniques on employee's attitude in two organizations that have announced merger.

Both organizations belonged to a different country of origin. Employees of one organization were selected in the experimental group while the other organization's employee attitude was set for comparison. The employees in the experimental group were provided with a realistic merger preview (RMP) that included merger newsletter, hotline, weekly meetings with managers and direct interaction of management with employees whose jobs were most affected by this merger; while the employees in the comparison group were only provided with the written merger announcement from the CEO. Researchers found that the employees in the comparison groups faced uncertainty, high stress and dissatisfaction that ultimately affected their commitment and intention to remain in the organization. On the other hand, employees in the experimental group passed the change phase with commitment. This shows that employees need conditioning in order to get aligned with change.

A similar case of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) can be discussed in this reference. PTCL was privatized in 2006, as Etisalat took over its 24% shares in management. PTCL management strived to successfully implement change through effectively communicating the desired change to its employees. This organization initially consisted of 60,000 employees, out of which 50,000 are permanent employees. For the purpose of cost cutting and shrinking half the size of organization, voluntarily separation Scheme (VSS) was launched by the Etisalat in 2006. This was one of the biggest employee separation schemes in Asia. VSS was a well defined separation plan that covered all the needs of the change process. It was communicated from top level to the lowest management level and had amazing outcomes. 30,000 employees opted for VSS and PTCL's target was achieved. Hofstede scored Pakistan on power distance, individualism and uncertainty avoidance as 55, 14 and 70 respectively. This means that Pakistani nation has a moderate power distance, low individualism, moderate masculinity, high in uncertainty avoidance and moderate in long term orientation. Of all these aspects, power distance, individualism and uncertainty avoidance plays a vital role in the successful execution of PTCL's VSS project. Now, we will look into it, step by step. As the power distance is moderate, PTCL management managed to effectively communicate their desired change. The next step was to involve all the target audience of VSS through negotiations with collective bargaining agents in order to avoid any interruptions in the project. Thirdly, employees were clearly communicated about the future vision of organization as Pakistani nation belongs to a high uncertainty avoidance category on Hofstede scale. And in case they would have any fear of risk in mind, they would immediately protest against the project and change being launched. In this way, change process was successfully implemented while designing and development the change according to the culture employee possess and frequently communicating it to employees.

Many other case studies and previous research proves that the most imperative approach in implementing change successfully is found to be effective communication, from top level management to the lowest level of management (Covin, 1990). In order to increase motivation and productivity of the employees, and to keep them align with the change process dyad communication plays a vital part (Lewis, 1999). Furthermore, researchers have observed that in a major organizational change process such as downsizing; managers need to effectively communicate to their employees for why some employees have been marked redundant while others have not (Larkin and Larkin, 1994; Merryman, 1995). This can be best done by leaders who are just beyond business leadership styles. They, in fact, need to have a charismatic personality. Our research focuses on how a charismatic leader is able to drive his followers smoothly through the change process.

Organizational Change and employee resistance

Organizations change to provide themselves a better place in the market. Many organizations go for implementing an organization - wide change that may be through right sizing, major restructuring or collaborations; others may require a change in their subsystems that require a change in the organization's product line, processes or reformation of a certain department. These changes may and may not be required by the personnel working in that organization.


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Resistance to organizational change: Successful implementation of change through effective communication
International Islamic University
Change Management
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ISBN (Book)
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resistance, successful
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Sonia Mushtaq (Author), 2011, Resistance to organizational change: Successful implementation of change through effective communication, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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