Why do people resist a new HR practice for the change?
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In general, resistance to change such as introduction or application of a new HR practice is a universal phenomenon in all types of organizations (Swanson & Holton, 2009). Launching an HR practice in business organization may not be exceptional.
Resistance to a new HR practice can occur due to technical, political, and cultural causes in the organization level (Tichy, 1982). In technical perspective, an organization cannot continually support a new HR practice if it organization fails to draw desirable outcomes from the investment of the HR practice (Tichy, 1982) because of poor fit between organizational resources and organizational performances (Kuchinke, 2003).
Second, the introduction and implementation of a new HR practice causes a restructuring of power relationships and resource accessibilities (Tichy, 1982), and consequently it draws power competitions in searching for stability (Leana & Barry, 2000) and psychological safety (Edmondson, 2004). For example, an innovation initiative that was driven by grass root level employees was met with resistance at corporate top management not because of technical reasons but because of potential risk to disrupt power structure that were already in place within the organization (Dörrenbächer & Geppert, 2006).
Finally, the cultural view to resistance against a new HR practice focuses on the disconfirmation of shared belief, shared value, and social norms in the organization. For example, cynicism of employees toward a new HR practice can be fortified through consecutive failures in application of new HR practices and strategies such as ‘program of the month,’ and this cynical culture can an organization to resist against any kinds of new HR practices for change (Reichers, Wanous, & Austin, 1997).
Individual employee’s resistance toward a new HR practice for change has been shown to be a multidimensional phenomenon. Piderit (2000) proposed that individual employee’s resistance to proposed new HR practice consists of at least three dimensions: emotional, cognitive, and intentional (behavioral). Within this Piderit’s multidimensional perspective, resistance to a new HR practice for change was represented by “the set of responses to change that are negative along all three dimensions” whereas support for a new HR practice for change is represented by “the set of responses that are positive along all three dimensions” (Piderit, 2000, p. 783).
However, individual employee’s attitude toward a proposed new HR practice for change is more complicated than acknowledged (Swanson & Holton, 2009). For example, an employee may believe change is needed (cognitive) for improving organizational performance but fear it (emotional) for losing autonomy power over his or her work. The incongruence of personal attitude toward a new HR practice can occur even in the same dimension. An empirical study indicated that employees could have conflicted emotions such as excitement and anxiety at the same time when an organizational change intervention was introduced (Vince & Broussine, 1996). These “ambivalent attitudes” of employees is defined as two alternative perspectives are both strongly experienced (Piderit, 2000, p. 787).
Taken all things into consideration, business organizations’ mechanistic replication or emulation of so-called best HR practices cannot reap the benefits of those innovative HR practices but will encounter a significant resistance when organizational leaders, HR professionals, and frontline managers do not have further understandings about the dynamics of employee perceptions of work environment and employee personal characteristics.
Dörrenbächer, C., & Geppert, M. (2006). Micro-politics and conflicts in multinational corporations: Current debates, re-framing, and contributions of this special issue. Journal of International Management, 12(3), 251-265.
Edmondson, A. C. (2004). Psychological safety, trust, and learning in organizations: A group-level lens. In R. M. Kramer & K. S. Cook (Eds.), Trust and distrust in organizations: Dilemmas and approaches (pp. 239-272): Russell Sage Foundation.