Organisational change can be defined as the reorganisation or restructure of the company’s resources to improve its effectiveness (Mullins 2010:737) Resistance to change is commonly witnessed in organisation but as “changing the mind-set and culture of the employees always has to come from the top” (Kouzomis 2007 cited in Purkayastha 2007), managers role is important in the changing process.
It is imperative that managers implement change effectively as the “Employees’ attitudes are considered an indicator of the future success of an organisation (Hurst 1995). The personality traits of an individual will affect his attitude towards change (Carver et al.1998). As each individual is different, the response to change will automatically differ from one person to another. While some always seek for change, challenges and excitement, others see change as a threat to their comfort and well-being.
Cunnigham stated: “…people welcome change that makes things better” (2005:37). Personally, I see change as good thing but will I not resist it? It depends. When I had to go to India, for my undergraduate studies, I first resisted! Why? Well, I was scared and I was seeing India as an underdeveloped country where I could not be happy living in. After reflection, I ended seeing this as a journey that will help me toughen, obtain a good educational background, be independent and learn from differences. That terrifying idea of going to India became eventually an exciting one. This applies in organisational change as well. I believe, it is because the safety need of the employees is threaten.
Any change in organisation might affect its culture as well; hence culture can constrain change (Naylor 2004: 79). An organisation that encourages competition rather than collaboration, an organisation that is reactive rather than proactive will more likely to face resistance to change. Until and unless employees do not understand the reason and the personal advantages behind this change, some sort of resistance will be witnessed. In some cases, the employee himself will find answers to those questions via cognitive reflection and welcome the change. However, others fail to self-reflect and do not see positivity in change and that is when the managers need to intervene.
I believe one of the reasons organisational change take place most of the time because it is mostly associated with downsizing. The economic climate makes competition fiercer, and cutting down cost is a priority to management teams. For instance, in 1990s, Shell changed from a matrix structure to a divisional hierarchy in order to reduce cost and compete with Exxon who started to outperform it. Due to this change in structure, 30% of the employees were dismissed in the London head office (Donovan 2010). But, of course, this is not always the case.
A study had described three types of resistance to change:
– affective: feeling about the change (anger, anxiety…)
– cognitive: thoughts about the change (is it necessary?…)
– behavioural: actions in response to the change (complaints, set others against the change…) (Oreg 2003).
Research shows that “adequate availability mitigates uncertainty and facilitates communication of the change goals and purpose » (Tvedi et al. 2009 :83.). It is important that the vision behind the change, which is “a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should strive to create that future” (Kotter 1996:68), be conveyed clearly to the subordinates. Through communication, the change-agent can halt the different resistances, cited above. Managers need to psychologically prepare the employees to the future coming change and help them throughout the process of implementation (Evans 1996), using their emotional intelligence. Managers need to understand the gap between the prior and new company’s culture, using the cultural web ((Mullins 2010:743), in order to introduce changes ‘smoothly’. Theilmann, the Chief Human Resources Officer at JC Penney called such small changes “quick hits” (Purkayastha 2007). I think it is important that managers need to adopt a sort of consultative style regarding the change implementation. This will not only give employees a feeling of empowerment but also ease the job of the manager in implementing the transformation since it will be based on employees’ ideas.
In conclusion, emotional intelligence plays an important role in the change implementation. An organisation’s ability to adapt to change is however enhanced through the learning organisation, which is the antithesis of the traditional bureaucratic organisation (Driver 2002). Hence it is imperative that organisations include change as a part of their culture, considering the actual business environment. But how such culture will be developed?