THE OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING WORK ENVIRONMENT

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CHAPTER 3: RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

This chapter focuses on the construct of resistance to change (RTC) as a variable that influences the behaviour and attitudes of academics in a changing world of work, represented in this study, by an ODL University. This will enable the researcher to explore the meaning of RTC as a psychological construct and explore the related theoretical models.

CONCEPTUALISING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

The origin of one of the most widely accepted mental models that drive individual employees’ behaviour lies in the idea that there is RTC. Kurt Lewin (1945) introduced the term as a systems concept, affecting the individual as well as the organisation. His conceptualisation of the phrase, however, is very different from today’s usage. Lewin evolved his concept “based on the ‘person’ as a complex energy field in which all behavior could be conceived of as a change in some state of a field” (Marrow, 1969, p. 30). Lewin acknowledged RTC, but in his opinion resistance could occur anywhere in the system. Kotter (1995) found that it is possible for the resistance to be sited within the individual, although it is much more likely to be found elsewhere in the system.
Lewin’s work has been strongly challenged over the past 20 years for taking an overly simplistic view of organisational change (Burnes, 2004d). However, in the changing organisational landscape globalisation, technological innovation and economic fluctuations have led to a desperate search for increased competitiveness through more and more radical forms of change (Cooper & Jackson, 1997; Savickas, et al., 2009; Veldsman, 2002) and forced organisations to spend huge amounts of time and human capital on the evaluation thereof. Similarly, Burnes (2003) reasons that in current turbulent environments change is one of the most pertinent and critical challenges for organisations. Change is so pervasive that it has become an integral part of any organisation, rather than an exceptional phenomenon (McGuiness & Morgan, 2005). Similarities between Lewin’s approach and complexity theories are evident. Dent and Goldberg (1999) came to the conclusion that a mental model exists that is universally accepted in the changing work environment – people resist change.

Change in the work environment

Change is ubiquitous and a constant reality for all individuals in all organisations (Brunton & Matheny, 2009). Moreover, Burnes (2004c) states that in our fast moving and unpredictable world of work there can be little doubt that change is one of the most important issues organisations need to deal with.
According to Burke (2002), many organisations fall into the trap of defining and understanding change as organisational change versus individual change. Furthermore, many organisations have failed to implement change successfully in the past because organisational and individual change should not have been weighed up against each other or seen as competing with each other (Burke, 2002). Several researchers (Champy, 1995; Clark & Koonce, 1997; Hammer, 1996; Kotter, 1995; Mauer, 1996; Porras & Robbertson, 1992) have come to the conclusion that more than fifty percent of change efforts do not succeed. A lack of participation, commitment, communication and involvement from employees with regard to change often has serious consequences for organisations (Beer, 1987). The interdependence between individual and organisational change is currently unknown because many managers are still unaware of the need to focus on individuals in the change process, and therefore organisations repeatedly fail (Beer & Nohria, 2000b). In particular, this may lead to high levels of resistance across the organisation.

Defining change

Kanter, Stein and Jick (1992) state that throughout the ages philosophers have found it difficult to define change. Their views range from the famous dictum of Heraclitus that nothing endures but change, to the ancient Greeks’ view that it is disastrous to deliberately change the basic character of something, which explains why they viewed adaptability as a limited phenomenon.
From a classical perspective, Lewin (1951) see change as a sequence of activities emanating from disturbances in the stable force field surrounding the organisation, object, person or situation. Harper (1993) defines change as the significant modification of social structure and cultural patterns through time. Ford and Ford (1994) describe change as a phenomenon of time where something over time turns into something else.
More recently, Van Tonder (2004a) proposed a generic definition of change by indicating that change can be seen as a dynamic, time-bound and non-discrete process that become evident in an empirical difference in the state or behaviour over time, of the entity with or within it occurs. Robbins (2005) argues that change occurs when something becomes different and planned change involves change activities that are intentional and goal-oriented. Strebel (2006) argues that change entails new thinking, extra time and effort and Barth (2007) postulates that individuals strive for comfort in a change process and therefore protect the status quo.
What is of relevance for this study in the HE work environment, is that planned change deals with changing individual academics’ behaviour in order to respond to changes in the environment and transformation and change of one kind or another could take place.

Reaction to change

According to Van Tonder (2004c), the reaction to change is defined as a response to a stimulus and within the context of the organisation, the reaction to change denotes a response to a change initiative, which may be followed by resistance. Individuals normally react emotionally to change since it evokes varying reactions that are underpinned by emotions. Oreg (2003) argues that individuals’ reactions to change are influenced by their individual dispositions.
Briner and Kiefer (2005), remark that because organisational change efforts have different effects on people, very little is known about peoples’ differing responses to organisational change. People react differently to change owing to differences in their perception and experience of change, which are attributed to the influence of various personal, demographic and organisational or contextual factors (Martin, Jones & Callan, 2006). Moreover, it follows that because people perceive change efforts differently as a result of the influence of the different factors, their different perceptions lead them to react differently to change events, and consequently they experience change initiatives differently (Blanchard, 2005).
Van Tonder (2004b) argues that it is at the level of the individual employee that individual responses to organisational change are formed, based on individual employees’ perception and experience of change. Furthermore, the individual responses (individual support for, or resistance to, change) to organisational change translate into group responses (group support for, or resistance to, change) because of group dynamics (group support for or group resistance to change). Thus, an individual’s response to change will be viewed from two perspectives, namely the individual’s reaction to change and the individual’s resistance to change (Van Tonder, 2004c).
Given the above, one may argue that negative experiences of change, and emotions associated with change, such as anxiety, may be aggravated by the lack of information about the change and the fear of moving from the known to the unknown. These contribute to the development of negative emotional reactions to the change, which ultimately translate into resistance to change. It is therefore significant to explore perceptions and experiences of RTC of academics in the changing ODL environment.

Defining RTC

Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) provide a simple definition of RTC, which refers to any opposition to a shift in the status quo. Resistance means slowing a process down or putting obstacles in the way of goal achievement. Ansoff (1990) defines RTC as a phenomenon that affects the change process, delaying or slowing its beginning, obstructing or hindering its implementation, and increasing its cost. Furthermore, Maurer (2000) suggests that RTC is any conduct that tries to preserve the status quo, or in other words the persistence in avoiding change.

The development of the concept of RTC

Foster (2010) indicates that the concept of RTC gained popularity in the 1970s and the phenomenon has been accepted as part of change processes. It has therefore attracted the attention of both academics and IO practitioners over the past few decades (Cunningham & Kempling, 2009; Cutcher, 2009; Harley, Whright, Hall & Dery, 2006; Judge, Thoresen, Pucik, & Welbourne, 1999; Kirkman & Shapiro, 2001; Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979; Kumar, Kant, & Amburgey, 2007; Oreg, 2003; Piderit, 2000).
RTC is a multifaceted concept, originating as a psychodynamic construct. Authors like Jermier, Knights and Nord (1994) take a contrary view and describe RTC as employees’ legitimate, political means of defending their own interests. It is therefore seen as a defence mechanism. It follows that some social scientists attach a negative connotation to resistance, defining it as a force obstructing the efforts of change leaders (Coch & French, 1948; Kotter, 1996; Marx, 1881/1883) although others (Ford & Ford, 1994; Goldstein, 1989; 1994; Weisbord, 1987) regard it as an important source of information for leading effective change. The third stream of thought emphasises its paradoxical nature, conceiving it as a phenomenon that can simultaneously be unconstructive and helpful (Bridges, 1986; Lewin, 1952; Mauer, 1996).
Relevant prior research has indicated that unconscious well-developed and habitual defence mechanisms arise in individuals as a response to the threats of change (Halton, 1994; O’Connor, 1993; Schafer, 2003) to protect themselves from change as well as from the feelings of anxiety change causes (De Board, 1978; Oldham & Kleiner, 1990). Halton (1994) found that these defences can obstruct and prevent the individual from adapting to change. This is based on the assumptions of the systems psychodynamic stance as reported by authors such as Gould, Stapley and Stein (2004), Haslebo and Nielsen (2000), Kets de Vries (1991) and Klein (2005).

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Determining RTC

Oreg designed the RTC scale to measure the individual’s natural disposition to accept or avoid change, over time and across situations (Oreg, Nevo, Metzer, Leder & Castro, 2009). Furthermore, it gauges an individual’s tendency to resist or avoid making changes, to devalue change generally, and to find change aversive across diverse contexts and types of change. Oreg (2003) went on to argue that the research was also designed to formulate a conception of a generalised disposition to resist change and to develop an instrument that would assess this disposition directly. Particular attention was paid to sources of resistance that appeared to derive from an individual’s personality. Six such sources were identified: (a) reluctance to lose control, (b) cognitive rigidity, (c) lack of psychological resilience, (d) intolerance of the adjustment period involved in change, (e) preference for low levels of stimulation and novelty, and (f) reluctance to give up old habits.
Most approaches to resistance to change have focused on situational antecedents (Coch & French, 1948; Tichy, 1983; Zander, 1950). More recent studies have begun to explore concepts that are related to RTC from an individual difference perspective. One example is the study by Rodda (2007), who concluded that the understanding of the psychological and behavioural foundations of RTC is significant. More specifically, Piderit (2000) postulated that RTC s a multidimensional disposition comprising behavioural, cognitive and affective components. The term RTC has undergone through a transformation in meaning, from a systems concept to a psychological one (Dent & Goldberg, 1999).
In this study, RTC will be discussed as a multifaceted construct, measuring the individual’s dispositional inclination to resist change (Oreg, 2003).

The dimensions of RTC

A review of past empirical research indicates differences in emphases regarding the way resistance was conceptualised, namely as an emotional dimension, as a cognitive dimension and as a behaviour. According to Piderit (2000), these three emphases can be reframed in a more integrative way by borrowing the concept of attitude from social psychology. Attitude theorists (Katz, 1960; Rosenberg & Hovland, 1960) argue that attitudes and RTC are roughly structured along the same dimensions. Piderit (2000) labels the three dimensions of attitudes the affective (emotional), the cognitive and the intentional dimensions. However, researchers know little about the multidimensional nature of resistance (Szabla, 2007), as it has not been investigated multidimensionally but only along single dimensions. Labianca, Gray and Brass (2000) adopted a cognitive approach, Vince and Broussine (1996) examined emotions during change and Brower and Abolafia (1995) emphasised behaviour.
However, from the perspective of both theory and research (Bagozzi, 1978; Breckler, 1984; Piderit, 2000) it can be argued that a response to a change in the individual’s work environment comprises all three dimensions, namely emotional, cognitive and intentional. This correlates with the views of more resent researchers, who conceptualise RTC as a complex, multidimensional attitude (George & Jones, 2001; Oreg, 2006). Although it is clear that people do not resist change as such, they resist being excluded from a change process that affects every aspect of the organisation, including their work (Gravenhorst, 2003). Prior research has attempted to explicate why change efforts in technology and management practices have not met expectations or resulted in failure (Oreg, 2006). It has been argued by Szabla (2007) that a contributing factor may be that researchers are defining RTC inconsistently and studying it incompletely.
The dimensions of RTC can therefore be conceptualised as follows:
(a) Emotional dimension
Relevant prior research has described resistance in emotional (affective) terms and Coch and French (1948) suggest an emotional component of resistance – aggression – which might create frustration leading to undesirable behaviour. This dimension correlates with the definition of RTC of Piderit (2000) as a threedimensional attitude towards change. Emotions are regarded as the most appropriate indicator of resistance and the most frequently reported emotions in change situations are insecurity, anxiety and fears (Ashford, 1988; Schweiger & De Nisis, 1991), aggression and frustration (Coch & French, 1948) and anger, relief and anxiety (Piderit, 2000). Diamond (1986), reasoned that the underlying nature of resistance is portrayed as highly emotional.
The emotions expressed as indicators of RTC depend on the characteristics of the changes proposed by the organisation, but also on the context-specific rules of emotional regulation in the organisation (Heinrich, 2004). The emotional dimension of an attitude refers to the employees’ feeling in response to the attitude object (Piderit, 2000) and the more negative these feelings are, the higher the affective resistance will be. According to Connor (1992), the loss of control in a change situation has been found to be the primary cause of RTC. This also correlates with the emotional reaction of academics to imposed change in the work environment, as predicted by Oreg (2003), and measured by the RTC scale, which reflects the amount of stress and uneasiness an individual experiences when confronted with change.
(b) Cognitive dimension
From the literature, it is clear that the cognitive dimension of RTC depends on how the change is experienced by the employee or to what extent the employee understands or accepts the reasons for the changes (Heinrich, 2004). The change may be perceived as a threat or as a challenge. This results in a distinction between rational resistance and irrational resistance (Hultman, 1995; Kreitner, 1992). In addition, Carnall (1994) found that certain cognitions are crucial for resistance, for example, if the change initiative is not clear to the employee, if it is regarded as unreliable or if the employee expects no positive outcome from the change. Fugate, Kinicki and Scheck (2008), underline the importance of social support in any change process.
Furthermore, Watson (1982) argues that behaviour which is often labelled as resistance is sometimes merely reluctance. Armenakis, Harris and Mossholder (1993) define resistance in behavioural terms as another preceding cognitive state called “unreadiness”. It would follow that participation of employees in workrelated changes may have motivational and cognitive effects on RTC, which would imply that cognition is part of the phenomenon of resistance (Bartlem & Locke, 1981).
The cognitive dimension of an attitude refers to an individual’s beliefs or thoughts about the change (Piderit, 2000). The employee needs to assess both the benefits of and the necessity for the change. The more negative these beliefs are, the higher the cognitive resistance will be. Cognitive factors are crucial in mediating the impact of change on individual responses and if the change is experienced as complex, it will evoke feelings of loss and insecurity (Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979).
This correlates with Oreg’s (2003) cognitive rigidity dimension, which refers to the frequency and ease with which employees change their minds. Furthermore, it may indicate a form of stubbornness and unwillingness to consider alternative ideas and perspectives (Oreg et. al., 2008).
(c) Behavioural dimension
Resistance is defined by behaviour that is intended to hinder the goals of the change effort, resulting in an aggressive response to the change (Zander, 1950). Many years ago Coch and French (1948) formulated definitions of performance– related behaviour and negative interpersonal behaviour such as aggression against management, conflict and a lack of cooperation with supervisors. Their definitions correlate with a finding by King and Anderson (1995) that RTC is indicated by observable behaviour (for example cynicism) as well as objective performance measures (for example quality). Shapiro, Lewicki and Devine (1995) similarly reported negative interpersonal RTC behaviour towards people in authority positions.
Behavioural definitions of RTC do not necessarily take the intentional dimension into account; low performance by an employee is not always an indicator of RTC. Ashforth and Mael (1998) identify resistance behaviours as refusal, denial or rejection (intentional acts of omission) with respect to the change. This correlates with Oreg’s (2003) routine seeking subscale namely a behavioural dimension consisting of employees’ inclination to adopt routines or to act or intend to act in response to a change in the environment (Oreg et al., 2008) Negative behaviour can therefore be described as behavioural resistance.
(d) Intentional dimension
Conceptually, Ashforth and Lee (1990) studied the general intention to reduce a perceived threat or to avoid an undesirable demand by an individual employee or group of employees. The intentional dimension of an attitude reflects an individual’s evaluation of an attitude object based on past behaviours and future intentions to act (Piderit, 2000).
This may explain why employees with a short-term focus, become distracted by the short-term inconvenience involved in change, preventing them from realising the long-term benefits (Oreg et. al., 2008). Recently, Beal III, Stavros and Cole (2013) reported intentional resistance in the form of complaints and the intention to avoid change.

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THE AETIOLOGY OF RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

Aetiology is the accumulated knowledge of the causes of a phenomenon; in this section, the cause or origin of RTC is in question. Conceptually, the notion of RTC is accredited to Kurt Lewin (1948). Resistance manifests through employee dysfunctional attitudes and behaviour according to Avey et al. (2008). French, Bell and Zawacki (2005) argue that change means the new state of things is different from the old state of things.
RTC arises as a response or reaction to change (Mabin, Forgeson & Green, 2001). This response is viewed as natural as change involves unlearning habitual patterns and learning new ways of thinking and feeling, which results in new behaviours in the work environment (Claxton, 1999; Gratton, 2001). According to Folger and Skarlicki (1999), change can generate scepticism and resistance in employees. Stanley, Meyer and Topolntsky (2005) argue that resistance manifests through disengagement and cynicism and therefore makes it difficult or impossible to implement organisational improvements. This process often provokes anxiety and results in resistance (Kets de Vries, 2002). Two terms which are closely associated with describing resistance to change, according to Coker (2000, p. 24), are “fear of loss” and “fear of the new”.

Factors contributing to RTC

ODL academics may regard the aspect of loss as particularly important and the following factors may contribute to a fear of loss (Coker, 2000; Kets de Vries, 2002; Mabin et al., 2001; Pheng, 1999; Seely, 2000):
a) Individual factors – personality factors such as a high need for control, locus of control, need for achievement and attitudes based on previous experiences of change.
b) Economic loss – loss of job, reduction in earnings or less opportunity for career growth.
c) Inconvenience – more work for the same remuneration, greater responsibility with no additional rewards
d) Threats – such as increased insecurity, anxiety or worry.

Internal forms of RTC

Booysen and Beaty (1997) report internal forms of RTC. These may include the following:
a) Fear of the unknown – relates to uncertainty about the causes and effect of change. De Jager (2001) argues that most people are reluctant to leave the familiar behind, and are naturally concerned about learning something new and risking failure.
b) Habit – change requires new ways of doing tasks and challenges people to develop new skills, which may cause fear and anxiety.
c) Self-interest – an unwillingness to give up existing benefits that have predominantly been provided to select advantaged individuals.
d) Economic insecurity – changes within the organisation have the potential to threaten jobs and economic security.
e) Failure to recognise the need for change, general mistrust and social disruption.
f) Selective perceptions – changes in the organisation may be perceived by some employees as threatening, and by others as challenging.

The role of RTC in the change process

In certain instances, employee resistance may play a positive and useful role in organisational change. Insightful and well-intended debate, criticism, or disagreement do not necessarily equate to negative resistance, but may contribute to better understanding as well as to additional options and solutions. Research by De Jager (2001) indicates that the idea that anyone who questions the need for change is displaying an attitudinal problem is simply wrong because it discounts past achievements and it oversees lessons learnt from past change processes.
Piderit (2000) points out that what some managers may perceive as disrespectful or unfounded RTC might be motivated by an individual’s ethical principles or by their desire to protect what they feel are the best interests of the organisation. This correlates with research by De Jager (2001), which indicates that resistance is an effective, powerful and useful survival mechanism in the changing work environment.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Declaration
Acknowledgements
Dedication
Abstract
Key terms
CHAPTER 1: SCIENTIFIC OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH
1.1 BACKGROUND TO AND RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.3 AIMS OF THE RESEARCH
1.4 STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
1.5 PARADIGM PERSPECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
1.6 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.8 CHAPTER DIVISION
1.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2: META THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: THE OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY
2.1 THE OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING WORK ENVIRONMENT
2.2 GLOBAL TRENDS IN OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING
2.3 TRANSFORMATION OF THE ACADEMIC IN OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING
2.4 CHANGES IN THE OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING CONTEXT
2.5 INTEGRATION
2.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3: RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.1 CONCEPTUALISING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.2 THE AETIOLOGY OF RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.3 CONCEPTUAL MODELS OF RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.4. DEMOGRAPHIC FACTORS AND RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.5 THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.6 INTERVENTIONS TO COUNTERACT RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
3.7 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4: POSITIVE WORK AND ORGANISATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
4.1 CONCEPTUALISING POSITIVE WORK AND ORGANISA-TIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
4.2 POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND THE POSITIVE INSTITUTION
4.3 PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING AND MENTAL HEALTH
4.4 MODELS OF POSITIVE ORGANISATIONAL PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNCTIONING
4.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
5.1 DETERMINATION AND DESCRIPTION OF THE POPULATION AND SAMPLE
5.2 CHOOSING AND MOTIVATING THE MEASURING INSTRUMENTS
5.3 DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURE AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE MEASURING INSTRUMENTS
5.4 DATA ANALYSIS
5.5 FORMULATION OF THE RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
5.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6 RESEARCH RESULTS
6.1 DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
6.2 VALIDITY
6.3 Reliability: Cronbach Alpha coefficient
6.4 Construct descriptives
6.5 INFERENTIAL STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
6.6 INTEGRATION OF THE RESULTS
6.7 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND LIMITATIONS
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 CONCLUSIONS
7.3 LIMITATIONS
7.4 RECOMMENDATIONS
7.5 EVALUATION OF THE RESEARCH
7.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
LIST OF REFERENCES
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