The Nature of Resistance
With the preceding chapters in mind, readers should be ready to delve into the resistance phenomenon in greater detail. The analysis presented here provides a platform for discussing the key elements of resistance and engagement behaviors that emerged in the transformations of Olivet College and Portland State University. (An overview of the method that undergirds the research for this work is provided in the section in the Preface entitled “Methodological Foundation.”)
The purpose of this chapter is to paint an empirical picture that illuminates the nature of resistance to organizational change. A deeper understanding of resistance goes beyond intuitive or gut reactions to specific behaviors. From the analysis of the data collected for this study I have identified nine reasons why people resist change efforts and ten forms of resistance. Before describing these and further elaborating the nature of resistance, it is important to deliver on the promised robust definition of resistance.
As mentioned at the close of Chapter 2, researchers may have collectively turned a theoretical corner in thinking about resistance. The research and analysis I present here is consistent with this paradigmatic shift. I hope that my findings will contribute to cementing the validity of this shift and help to classify resistance behaviors among the full array of natural responses to change efforts.
Before the turn into this century, scholars often suggested that resistance was analogous to two fundamental principles of physics (Burke, 2008). Specifically, (1) every action has an equal and opposite reaction; and (2) a body set in motion will remain in motion until acted on by another force, shifting in