Even though the process of organizational change is ubiquitous, employee resistance to it is a complex issue that may contribute to the high failure rate of reorganization. A change in which I was involved was the lean in distribution and manufacturing site initiated by the general manager. The lean transition is a radical change that is associated with a total reshaping of the purpose and culture of an organization. Although the desired outcome was to develop the site and reduce resources that do not add value to the organization, lean implementation appeared to be a difficult process due to employee resistance.
Resistance to Change
After it was declared by the general manager that the site was going to go lean, I began to notice signs of tension in employee behavior which then escalated into resistance. As I could see, some employees were critical of organizational change and did not hide that they doubted the importance and necessity of lean. For the first time, I noticed that some workers feigned ignorance and did nothing to support the change. The passive resistance was then accompanied by the personnel agreeing verbally but not completing the assigned tasks, procrastinating, and simply not participating in the working process.
Truth to be told, I was not angry but confused and slightly disappointed to discover that the personnel overtly refused to try to reflect on the importance of the change process. It was obvious to me that there would be an employee resistance as people may prefer predictability and stability both in personal and professional lives. Also, employees could consider that the change was not in their interests and would threaten their status, rewards, or opportunities (Palmer et al. 254). It is also possible that employees lacked conviction that the change was necessary or believed that the proposed change was inappropriate.
My decision to manage resistance was made when I realized that the personnel’s unwillingness to embrace change would be damaging to the whole organization in the short run. It is a well-known fact for managers that the workers need some time to accept the change and adapt to it. However, it was clear to me that I could use the resistance productively and facilitate the reorganization process. This would enable us to change the attitude of the employees to the change, gain their support, and enhance both communication and mutual understanding in the team.
The strategy that I used showed fairly good long-term effects as employee resistance significantly decreased over time, which allowed for successful change implementation. However, it took a certain time to convey the importance of the reorganization to the personnel. Short-term effects were rather unsatisfactory since I noticed employees were hostile to me each time I pointed them to the importance of change and stimulated them to work in a new direction.
Reflecting on my experience and mistakes I made with consideration of what I know now about managing resistance, I think I should have used attraction strategies to encourage the personnel to support change. In particular, I had to spend more time analyzing personal issues and concerns of employees to identify appropriate individual attractors to manage resistance more efficiently. If I had devoted more time to the elaboration of unarguable reasons for the change, more people would have been engaged in it in the short run.
Palmer, Ian, et al. Managing Organizational Change: A Multiple Perspectives Approach. 3rd ed., McGrow-Hill, 2017.