Tension and Resistance to Change in Organizational Climate: Managerial Implications for a Fast Paced World

Richard M. Burton, Jørgen Lauridsen, Børge Obel

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Climate is the atmosphere of the organization, a “relatively enduring quality of the internal environment of an organization, which is experienced by its members and influences their behavior.” The organizational climate can be measured in terms of trust, morale, conflict, equity in rewards, leader credibility, resistance to change and scapegoating. Using a factor analysis, we found that the organizational climate can be described in two dimensions: “tension” and the resistance to change for a group of 245 Danish companies. High tension involves strained relationships, stress and a balance of the combined factors. High resistance to change is a preference for tomorrow to be like today. Change management has a long history and rests fundamentally upon Lewin’s three phases: unfreeze, change and re-freeze. More recently, change management is seen as sensemaking and the creation of an organizational reality in which change is more usual and continuous. Using the competing values framework, four organizational climates emerge: > internal process, which is high on tension and resistance to change, > rational goal, which is high on tension and low on resistance to change, > developmental, which is low on tension and low on resistance to change, and > group, which is low on tension and high on resistance to change. The managerial implications are complex For a fast paced world, the resistance to change must be low. Lewinian episodic change is difficult, slow and costly. Continuous change can be managed, where change becomes the norm of the organization. However, tension does not have to be low. Individuals may prefer a low tension organization, but it may not be necessary for a fast paced world. Further, since the two dimensions are independent, managers cannot reduce tension as a means to reduce the resistance to change.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherLOK Research Center. CBS
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)8791023025
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes
SeriesLOK Working Paper

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