Resistance to change

Topics: Change management, Organizational studies, Organization Pages: 17 (5826 words) Published: May 29, 2014
Effects of Resistance on Organizational Learning Introduction It is indisputable whether resistance and learning are two important issues contemporary organizational leaders have to manage. While both concepts have received considerable attention in academic research, albeit with little consensus on their conceptual underpinnings, there is still a dearth of systematic research on the actual effects of resistance on organizational learning. However, due to its supposed role in hindering organizational change initiatives, resistance has been commonly prescribed a negative connotation. This prevailing viewpoint inherently makes it easy to slip into an interpretation of resistance as dysfunctional for organizational learning. This essay contends that this dominant perception is largely a result of an assumption favoring the management or change agent as rational, and the consequential treatment of resistant behaviors as irrational. The aim of this article, then, is to offer a re-conceptualization of resistance beyond the contextual confines of change, and explore its functional roles, particularly in stimulating organizational learning. Firstly, the conceptualizations of resistance and organizational learning will be explored. In particular, due to the aim to explore the fundamental features of resistance beyond the organizational literature and the overwhelming diversity of the conceptualization, this essay will draw on the work of Hollander and Einwohner (2004), who have conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of resistance based on a large number of published work on the topic. Then, Jost and Bauer's (2003) pain metaphor and Weick's (2003) assertions on the importance of moments of interruptions will be employed to show how resistance can be seen as a resource that acts to signal that something is going wrong and needs rectification. It will be further argued that, by triggering awareness and directing attention to a problem, resistance acts to call for evaluation of and reflection on the situation, hence stimulating organizational learning. Finally, recognizing that possible limitations to the functional effects of resistance cannot go unaddressed, the last section discusses several variables that can potentially limit the capacity of resistance in stimulating organizational learning. Therefore, the central argument of this article is as follows: Re-conceptualizing resistance as a resource rather than as a deficit sheds light on its functional potentials. In view of its fundamental features, resistance does have the potential to stimulate organizational learning. However, whether or not this translates to reality remains dependent on a wide range of variables surrounding the organization concerned. Conceptualizing Resistance

Despite a surge in studies on resistance in the past few decades, resistance remains a theoretically eclectic concept (Mumby, 2005). As Hollander and Einwohner (2004) claim, the concept of resistance is still unfocused and vague. Due to the lack of a clear and systematic definition, there is little consensus on what constitutes resistance, and the language of resistance has in fact been used in research to describe vastly different phenomena on a range of different dimensions (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004) . In terms of its dimension and scope, resistance can describe actions occurring at the individual, collective or institutional level (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004). Similarly, the targets of resistance can vary from individuals to groups to work conditions to organizational or social structures (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004). In addition, resistance can take different directions or goals, and can be aimed at achieving change or curtailing change (Mullings, 1999). Resistance can also manifest in various modes. Among the diverse array of literature on resistance, the most frequently studied mode of resistance is one which involves physical bodies or material objects in acts of resistance (Hollander...

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