Power and Resistance

Power abdicates only under stress of counter-power

Martin Buber

People don't resist change. They resist being changed!

Peter Senge

Our resistance to overtime was seen as a rejection of the company's philosophy of forced cooperation by team members

Laurie Graham, On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu: The Japanese and the American Worker

Resistance is a perennial concept in the organizational change literature. It would be hard to find a popular press book about organizational change that did not include a section or even a chapter on resistance and how to prevent or forestall its effects. The notion of resistance brings to mind images of domineering implementers forcing unwanted change on stakeholders who are fearful and reticent to alter familiar practices (just because change is uncomfortable and/or “everyone hates change”) and thus rebel. Stan Deetz (2008) puts it really well: “The very word evokes the sense of reclaimed autonomy of the oppressed working against domination. And its positive connotations are easy when the good guys are the weak guys and the bad guys powerful” (p. 387).

However, this leaves us with a romanticized depiction of resistance. It is actually far more complex to understand the various motivations for proposing and counter-proposing; for weighing in for or against; for acting in self-interests, organizational interest, and/or stakeholder group interest; for aligning with power or powerlessness; for forcing, threatening, coercing, and punishing; ...

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