Resistance to change: the organisation dimension

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Authors: D. Stonehouse

Publication Year: 2013


Journal: British Journal of Healthcare Assistants

Volume: 7

Issue: 3

Categories: Change Management, Organizational Change, Change Management, Resistance


This article examines how change within an organisation can be faced with resistance from the organisation itself. By this is meant the culture, policies and procedures.

One of the main causes could be the organisation’s own culture. When there is no open culture to change and development, then it is resistant. The most significant part of culture is known as the unwritten rules. These rules are things that are not openly discussed or written down, but which are shared by most if not all of the members of the organisation or team. Those at the top mostly influence the culture of an organisation. It could be something that the boss or management team has brought in which dictates how things are done. These things are held to be true and unquestionable and as such are near impossible to challenge or change

Another form that resistance to change can take is where the organization is focused upon maintaining stability and the status quo. Change can often be characterised as a time of instability and uncertainty. Organisations do not like this as it can be perceived as being risky. Organisations, like individuals, prefer to follow routines.

It may be that different departments within the organisation see change as a threat to their own existence. They may feel that the change may result in loss of resources, staff, money, or influence and importance.

It is often the case that money needs to be spent in the short term for savings to be made in the longer term. Think of the cost of new equipment, especially high technology devices such as computer systems or diagnostic instruments. The change agent needs to make the cost acceptable to the organisation, to remove any unnecessary costs and to deliver the results of the change within an acceptable budget. It is useful to demonstrate the cost savings that will be delivered on successful completion of the change.

One final form of resistance is where change may be prevented due to existing legal agreements and contracts. The organisation will have bought into receiving a range of services for a set timeframe. Until this expires and a new contract can be negotiated, it may be impossible to change certain things. This should not deter change, but may only postpone it until a time when it is able to proceed.

Communication is key to implementing successful change. The change agent needs to communicate truthfully to all those involved. This needs to be two-way communication, with information flowing back from those individuals and groups who are affected by the process. Recognising why resistance can occur and not labelling it as negative and hostile will allow the change agent to move forward successfully.

Critical Reflection

I believe resistance within organisations should never been underestimated, therefore I agree with Stonehouse. I have seen it in many organisations that organisational culture plays a key role in successful organisational changes. Some companies value process improvements while others fear them. Communication is for me the key to successful changes within organisations. It is important to listen to all the parties involved, because they make a successful change possible. If they do not cooperate, chances are the intended organisational change will fail.