The Psychology of Diversity Resistance and Integration

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Christine Wiggins-Romesburg of the University of Louisville and Rod P. Githens of the University of the Pacific. They recently published an article in the Human Resource and Development Review entitled “The Psychology of Diversity Resistance and Integration,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Ms. Wiggins-Romesburg reflects on experiences that inspired this research:]

hrda_16_4.coverIn my prior career as a human resource management practitioner, I worked in a mid-sized corporation where executives were credibly accused of sexual harassment, and it was left to me to address the complaints. I thought that, given the mutual respect I had with the men accused and our shared interest in protecting the organization from lawsuits, I could convince them to discontinue any offensive behavior. Much to my dismay, my efforts resulted in a deepening of biased attitudes and an apparent escalation of harassment that placed the business at increased risk, and ultimately had a negative impact on the careers of the targets and on my own career. I was floored. This experience left me to wonder, “What I could have said or have done differently to produce a better result?”

Although this happened more than ten years ago, today we find countless examples in the media and other recent events where people are called out for their biases and treatment of others. While such behavior may justly earn public condemnation, treating biased individuals this way can be divisive, and provoke defensiveness and shame. As this paper shows, this can increase resistance to change and lessen the chance of a positive outcome.

One possible solution might be taking a softer approach to dealing with biased individuals that is more caring of the needs of those whose behavior we hope to change. This approach is further applicable in situations where the biased individual is in a position of power. The findings were counterintuitive for me personally, and have left me with many more questions that I will continue to investigate.

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Individuals’ Personal Resistance to Change

overcoming-2127669_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Shaul Oreg of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Resistance to Change and Performance: Toward a More Even-Handed View of Dispositional Resistance,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Oreg reflect on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

JABS_72ppiRGB_powerpointMy interest in this project derived from my desire to counter the negative view of the resistance to change concept in general, and the notion of individuals’ personal resistance to change more specifically. As a rule, resistance to change is considered to be bad, irrational, and harmful. Accordingly, individuals who are predisposed to resist change are typically viewed in a negative light. They are seen as inferior to those individuals who seek out change and thrive in dynamic environments. This is unfortunate given that there are many situations in our lives in which it is the routine and stable environment that dominates and that requires our attention. We are often required to maintain high levels of motivation and performance in environments that are routine and often monotonous. As such, individuals who shy away from change and prefer routines may actually have an advantage over change-seekers in such stable environments. This is what I set out to demonstrate in this project.

One of the challenges in the project was to devise routine and dynamic environments in the lab that would capture the essence of these environments in real life. Another challenge was obtaining evidence from both laboratory and field settings.

The findings nicely demonstrate both the advantages and disadvantages of dispositional resistance to change in the context of task performance. Whereas high-resistors perform more poorly on dynamic tasks, they outperform their change-loving counterparts when performing routine tasks. Of the four dimensions of the dispositional resistance to change trait, it is the routine-seeking dimension that yields this pattern most consistently.

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Resistance tag photo attributed to NeuPaddy. (CC)

Making Change Happen: Part 3 of 4

overcoming_resistance_to_changePart Three: Overcoming the Obstacles

UntitledOrganizational change is a complex process. In working to lead change effectively, managers may face difficult decisions, resistance, or uncertainty about how to move forward.  They must be prepared to learn new skills, face paradoxical choices, work with individual behaviors and attitudes, and meet other challenges that may bar the path to success.

Today, we examine research that tackles some of these key concepts:

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointChange efforts can present opportunity on the horns of a dilemma. Larry Peters of Texas Christian University published “The Rhythm of Leading Change: Living With Paradox” in the Journal of Management Inquiry October 2012 issue. From the abstract:

This article focuses on an interesting type of challenge that can fight against effective leadership in large-scale change efforts. The type of challenge the author refers to is a paradox—alternatives that don’t follow from each other, where both alternatives appear necessary, but where choosing one acts to negate the other.

JLOS_72ppiRGB_powerpointEmployees are critical to successful change; their cognitions, perceptions, and attitudes matter. Eric Lamm of San Francisco State University and Judith R. Gordon of Boston College published “Empowerment, Predisposition to Resist Change, and Support for Organizational Change” in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies November 2010 issue. From the abstract:

This article investigates the extent to which empowerment and dispositional characteristics contribute to behavioral support for organizational change. The study is the first to use a comprehensive intrapersonal variable—psychological empowerment—to represent the interaction between an individual and his or her work environment.

JME_72ppiRGB_150pixWFuture business leaders must develop their skills for leading change now. Amy C. Lewis of Drury University and Mark Grosser of EM-Assist, Inc. published “The Change Game: An Experiential Exercise Demonstrating Barriers to Change” in the Journal of Management Education October 2012 issue. From the abstract:

Students may underestimate the difficulty of convincing others to work toward change; the authors developed the Change Game as a tool to help students experience the difficulties of leading change and identify opportunities for skill development in the area of change leadership.

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