, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 917-931

Institutionalized Resistance to Organizational Change: Denial, Inaction and Repression

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Abstract

An extensive theoretical and research literature on organizational change and its implementation has been accumulating over the past fifty years. It is customary in this literature to find resistance to change mentioned as an inevitable consequence of organizational change initiatives. Yet there has been little discussion of the nature and forms of resistance that is institutionalized in organizational structure and processes. Furthermore, organization development perspectives on organizational change address management-initiated change, but not change proposed by advocates for the powerless and disadvantaged. Focussing on institutionalized resistance from the standpoint of the advocate of fundamental change, this discussion proposes a typology consisting of a sequence of forms of active resistance to change, from denial through inaction to repression. The typology is illustrated by referring to responses of organizational decision makers to the efforts of employment equity change agents to address issues of systemic discrimination in the work place. The purpose of the typology is to assist change advocates, such as equality seekers, to name, analyze and think strategically about the institutionalized resistance they encounter, and about effective responses to the resistance.