ch7.2damelio et al

ch7.2damelio et al - Academy of Management Review 2008,...

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RESISTANCE TO CHANGE: THE REST OF THE STORY JEFFREY D. FORD The Ohio State University LAURIE W. FORD Critical Path Consultants ANGELO D’AMELIO The Vanto Group Prevailing views of resistance to change tell a one-sided story that favors change agents by proposing that resistance is an irrational and dysfunctional reaction lo- cated “over there” in change recipients. We tell the rest of the story by proposing that change agents contribute to the occurrence of resistance through their own actions and inactions and that resistance can be a resource for change. We conclude by proposing how resistance might be restructured. It is time to expand our understanding of re- sistance to change, including its sources and its potential contribution to effective change man- agement. As others have noted (Dent & Gold- berg, 1999a; King & Anderson, 1995; Meston & King, 1996), the predominant perspective on re- sistance is decidedly one sided, in favor of change agents and their sponsors. 1 Studies of change appear to take the perspective, or bias, of those seeking to bring about change, in which it is presumed change agents are doing the right and proper things while change recipients throw up unreasonable obstacles or barriers in- tent on “doing in” or “screwing up” the change (Dent & Goldberg, 1999a; Klein, 1976). Accord- ingly, change agents are portrayed as undeserv- ing victims of the irrational and dysfunctional responses of change recipients. This “change agent–centric” view presumes that resistance is an accurate report by unbi- ased observers (change agents) of an objective reality (resistance by change recipients). Change agents are not portrayed as partici- pants who enact their environments (Weick, 1979) or construct their realities (Berger & Luck- mann, 1966) but, rather, as people who deal with and address the objectively real resistance of change recipients. There is no consideration given to the possibility that resistance is an interpretation assigned by change agents to the behaviors and communications of change recip- ients, or that these interpretations are either self-serving or self-fulfilling. Nor, for that matter, does the change agent– centric view consider the possibility that change agents contribute to the occurrence of what they call “resistant behaviors and communications” through their own actions and inactions, owing to their own ignorance, incompetence, or mis- management (e.g., Beer, Eisenstat, & Spector, 1990; Kanter et al., 1992; Schaffer & Thompson, 1992; Spreitzer & Quinn, 1996). Rather, resistance is portrayed as an unwarranted and detrimental response residing completely “over there, in them” (the change recipients) and arising spon- taneously as a reaction to change, independent of the interactions and relationships between the change agents and recipients (Dent & Gold- berg, 1999a; Ford, Ford, & McNamara, 2002; King & Anderson, 1995).
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This note was uploaded on 05/29/2011 for the course MAN 5721 taught by Professor Collins during the Summer '10 term at Florida A&M.

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ch7.2damelio et al - Academy of Management Review 2008,...

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