always respect my resisters. Indeed, Ford, Ford and d’Amelio
go further and argue that change agents often amplify resistance by resisting it themselves. Tis is how conflict can arise, whether by active, combative resistance to the resistance, or by avoidance and disengagement. Teir third suggestion turns the tables and argues, as I do, that resistance is a resource. Handled well, the conversations it creates can boost engagement and contribute to better solutions. Not only that, but conflict, when managed well, can improve decision-making, which is a point that echoes Piderit’s arguments. In a particularly thought-provoking
paper, I was most taken by their observation that much of the teaching and learning about how to create organisational change has been pared down to how to put stakeholders right when they oppose our initiatives. Tey collate a list of additional toolkits we need to build up, which is something I have been trying to do for ten years.
Predisposition to resist
Although not the most recent paper, the one that is newest to me is Shaul Oreg’s 2003 research study10
some people are more inclined to resist than others. Oreg finds, through a series of studies, that four factors account best for differences in our
predisposition to resist change: Routine seeking – a preference for stability over novelty.
Emotional reaction – a tendency to react emotionally to imposed change.
Short-term focus – the desire to stick to plans already made, rather than seizing opportunities.
Cognitive rigidity – a tendency to hold consistent views over time and not change your mind easily.
Whist Oreg’s paper is quite technical, and filled with tables of correlations, his conclusions are simple. Across a range of changes, some people are more likely to be resistant, and we can identify them from four primary traits. Other traits have less predictive power. Tis work has successfully
synthesised many earlier studies that Oreg references. Tese each focused on specific traits and gave him a starting pool of six sources of resistance.
So Oreg is drawing our attention
to the role of individual personalities in our understanding of resistance. But he is not yet offering us a useful toolkit. Indeed, he suggests three primary uses for his work, one of which may not be ethical nor, in some jurisdictions, legal. Tat one is in personnel selection. Te others are in training and in managing consumer behaviour. Unfortunately, I am not aware of follow-up research into how to tailor interventions to deal with these four tendencies explicitly. What he does seem to be telling us is that people are different and that some are more likely to resist. And therefore, Oreg seems to endorse the rule that, to some extent, resistance is inevitable.
The Onion Model
All of this, and more, has fed into my thinking about resistance to change. Te Onion Model11
sets out a
series of layers of resistance, each one deeper and more challenging to handle than the last. When we understand how to diagnose the resistance we find, then we can adapt our response to be as respectful and effective as possible. We can learn from our resisters and help them; rather than defaulting to combating them. But my point is not that any one
model can displace its predecessors but rather that no one model can ever hope to be comprehensive. We tend to find models, tools and explanations that we like. We find they fit with our worldview and we start to feel com- fortable with them. So as trainers, we incorporate them into our toolkits and get them out whenever we need them. Tat is part of our talent. But we
must never allow ourselves to become complacent about the tools we use. We must constantly return to sources and re-sharpen our saw.12
is complete. I know you are busy, and The Onion Model of Resistance to Change
so am I, but if your job is to train, teach, coach or develop, then your first responsibility is to train, teach, coach and develop yourself.
Dr Mike Clayton is a trainer, speak- er, author and trusted adviser. He has written 13 books, including the Handling Resistance Pocket- book and The Influence Agenda: A Systematic Approach to Aligning
Stakeholders in Times of Change. You can contact him through his website at www.mikeclayton.co.uk
References 1 ‘Super Models: Freeze Phases’ by Mike Clayton, Training Journal, February 2008, p.66.
2 ‘Super Models: Scott & Jaffe’s Change Grid’ by Mike Clayton, TJ, February 2007, p.61.
3 Managing Transitions by William Bridg- es, Nicholas Brealey, 2009 (3rd Ed).
4 Leading Change, by John Kotter, Harvard Business ReviewPress, 2012 (2nd Ed).
5 ‘A Different View on Resistance to Change’ by KilianMBennebroek Gravenhorst, Symposium at the 11th EAWOP Conference, May 2003.
6 ‘Rethinking Resistance and Recognizing Ambivalence: A Multidimensional View of Attitudes Toward an Organizational Change’ by Sandy Kristin Piderit, Acad- emy of Management Review, 2000, Vol 25, No.4.
7 Mary Parker Follett – Prophet of Man- agement, edited by Pauline Graham, Harvard Business School Press, 1994.
8 ‘Resistance to Change: The Rest of the Story’ by Jeffrey D Ford, LaurieWFord and Angelo d’Amelio, Academy of Man- agement Review, 2008, Vol 33, No.2.
9 Handling Resistance Pocketbook by Mike Clayton, Management Pocketbooks, 2010.
10 ‘Resistance to Change: Developing an Individual Differences Measure’ by Shaul Oreg, Journal of Applied Psycholo- gy, 2003, Vol 88, No.4.
11 ‘Creating the Onion Model’ by Mike Clayton, TJ, September 2011, p.28.
12 Metaphor from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R Covey, Simon & Schuster, 1989.
"I don't understand why we need to change" "I don't understand why this change"
"I don't like this change" "I don't like change" "I don't like you"
©Mike Clayton | june 2016 | 19
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