Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Effect of Affective Commitment, Communication and Participation on Resistance to Change: The Role of Change Readiness

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Effect of Affective Commitment, Communication and Participation on Resistance to Change: The Role of Change Readiness

Article excerpt

Increasing globalisation, technological innovation, changing government laws and regulations, political events, and workforce characteristics constitute the foremost triggers of organisational flexibility (Pfeffer, 1994), and require ongoing, often major changes in organisations. Although change has become commonplace in modern organisations, the reported failure rates of change implementation range from 40% to as high as 70% (By, 2005; Isern & Pung, 2007). These statistics have prompted researchers and practitioners alike to investigate the causes underlying change failure.

While a myriad of factors can be ascribed to unsuccessful transformations, including pressures from the business environment and inadequate organisational infrastructure, employee resistance has been identified as a primary source of change implementation failure across a range of organisations and industries worldwide (Erwin & Garman, 2010; Maurer, 1996; Reger et al., 1994; Spiker & Lesser, 1995; Waldersee & Griffiths, 1996). The extant literature suggests that employee resistance may be the upshot of managerial failure to acknowledge or value employee input, to manage change-related attitudes, and to consider the impact of workforce involvement on change planning, implementation and sustainability (Armenakis, Harris, & Mossholder, 1993; Courpasson, Dany, & Clegg, 2012; George & Jones, 2001; Lau & Woodman, 1995). Importantly, recent research has suggested that resistance to change may add strategic value to change planning and implementation, and should therefore be carefully discerned and managed (Downs, 2012; Ford, Ford & D'Amelio, 2008; Ford & Ford, 2010).

On the other hand, the potential for change readiness to facilitate the implementation of organisational transformations has also been underscored (Armenakis et al., 1993). Change readiness reflects the process wherein employees, influenced by information received from change drivers, peers, and other contextual clues, perceive the change as necessary and achievable (Armenakis et al., 1993), and display willingness to support change efforts (Miller, Johnson, & Grau, 1994; Wanberg & Banas, 2000).

Although change resistance and readiness have often been positioned at different ends of the same spectrum (Armenakis et al., 1993) and presumed to share similar dispositional and contextual antecedents (Oreg, 2006; Wanberg & Banas, 2000), they may represent distinct constructs. In fact, readiness for change has been proposed as "the cognitive precursor to the behaviours of either resistance to, or support for, a change effort" (Armenakis et al., 1993, pp. 681-682), though this link has merited little attention in the extant literature. Hence, the purpose of this study is twofold. First, the study aims to explore whether and how variables commonly advanced as contextual antecedents of change readiness and resistance, namely perceptions regarding change-related communications, the opportunity for participation in change planning and implementation, and the degree of affective commitment to the changing organisation, relate to readiness and resistance attitudes. Second, in line with the premise suggesting that readiness for change is a precursor to change resistance (Armenakis et al., 1993), readiness for change will be investigated as a mediator of the relationship between contextual antecedents and resistance to change.

Resistance to change

Employee reactions to change can be positive (e.g., expressions of commitment and receptivity to the change), or negative (e.g., expressions of resistance, stress, or cynicism regarding the change) (Armenakis & Bedeian, 1999). Moreover, it is also not entirely uncommon for employees to feel ambivalent, holding conflicting emotions and cognitions about the change (Piderit, 2000), and for the attitudes toward change to vary over time, across different stages of change implementation. …

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