Overcoming Resistance to Change

In the previous post, we deal with the various sources of resistance to change.  In this post we discusses strategies and tactics to overcome resistance to organizational change.

Overcoming Resistance to Change in Organizations

Kotter and Schelsinger (1979) has identified six general strategies for overcoming resistance to change.

  1. Education and Communication : Resistance can be reduced through communicating with employees to help them see the logic of a change. This tactic basically assumes that the source of resistance lies in misinformation or poor communication. If employees receive the full facts and get any misunderstanding cleared up, resistance will subside. Communication can be achieved through one-to-one discussions, memos, group presentations, or reports. Does it work? It does, provided the source of resistance is inadequate communication and that management-employee relations are characterized by mutual trust and credibility. If these conditions don’t exist, the change is unlikely to succeed.
  2. Participation and Involvement : It is difficult for individuals to resist a change decision in which they would have participated. Prior to making a change, those opposed can be brought into the decision process. People can be encouraged to help design and implement the change in order to draw out their ideas and to foster commitment. Participation increases understanding, enhance feelings of control, reduces uncertainty and promotes a feeling of ownership when change directly affects people.
  3. Facilitation and Support : If employees are provided with encouragement, support, training, counseling and resources adapt to new requirements easily. By accepting people’s anxiety as legitimate and helping them cope with change, managers have a better change of gaining respect and the commitment to make it work.
  4. Negotiation and Agreement : Management can bargain to offer incentives in return for agreement to change. This tactic is often necessary while dealing with powerful resistance, like bargaining units. Sometimes specific things can be exchanged in return for help in bringing about a change. Other times, general perks can be widely distributed and facilitate to implement the change.
  5. Manipulation and Co-optation : Manipulation is framing and selectively using information and implied incentives to maximize the likelihood of acceptance. An example would be if the management tells employees that accepting a pay cut is necessary to avoid a plant shut down, when plant closure would not really have to occur. Co-optation is influencing resistant parties to endorse the change effort by providing them with benefits they desire and non-influential role in the process.
  6. Explicit and Implicit Coercion : Some times management might use authority and the threat of negative incentives to force acceptance of the proposed change. Management might decide that if employees don’t accept proposed changes, then it has to shut the plant down, decrease salaries or layoff people. Examples of coercion can be also transfer, loss of promotion, negative performance evaluations and poor letter of recommendation. The advantages and drawbacks of coercion are approximately the same as that of manipulation and co-optation.


Commonly Used Advantages


Education and Communication

When there is lack of information or inaccurate information and analyses. Once persuaded, people will often help with the implementation of the change.

Can be time consuming if lots of people are involved.

Participation and Involvement

Where the initiators do not have all the information they need to design the change, and where others have considerable power to resist. People who participate will be committed to implementing change, and nay relevant information they have will be integrated into the change plan.

Can be time consuming it participants design in inappropriate change.

Facilitation and Support

When people are resisting because of adjustment problems. No other approach works as well with adjustment problems.

Can be time consuming, expensive and still fail.

Negotiation and  Agreement

When someone or some group will clearly lose out in a change and when that group has considerable power to resist. Sometimes it’s a relatively easy way to avoid major resistance.

Can be too expensive in many cases if it alerts others of negotiate for competence.

Manipulation and Co-Optation

Where other tactics will not work or are too expensive. It can be a relatively quick and inexpensive solution to resistance problems.

Can lead to future problems if people feel manipulated.

Explicit and Implicit Coercion

Where speed is  essential, and the changes initiations possess considerable power. It is speedy and can overcome any kind of resistance.

Can be risky if it leaves people mad at the initiator.

Read: Ways to Overcome Resistance to Organizational Change

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