Term Paper: Employees Resist Integrating New Technologies

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[. . .] Further, Gattiker & Paulson present a close look at "attitudes" of workers as a key measuring stick as to whether or not they will accept dramatic technological changes: does the technology make the job "rewarding" or does it create "de-skilling" and open the door for layoffs.

Academy of Management Review / "Rethinking Resistance and Recognizing Ambivalence": the researcher who wrote this paper (Piderit, 2000) argues that "resistance to change" may be a phrase that needs to be retired. His position is taken because previous research has consistently overlooked the fact that "potentially positive intentions" may have motivated the so-called negative responses to change. The studies, Piderit reports, have tended to "oversimplify" responses to change, and "varied emphases in the conceptualization of resistance have slipped into the literature," which tends to "blur" researchers' sense of how complicated the phenomenon of resistance really is.

Moreover, Piderit continues, one explanation as to why employees resist change may be found in research on obedience to authority: "resistance might be motivated by individuals' desires to act in accordance with their ethical principles...[and] by mere selfishness." Also, Piderit believes that employee responses to technological change can be categorized in three dimensions: emotional responses, cognitive responses, and intentional responses. The change leadership must confront the realities of all three of those potential employee responses (resistances) to new technologies in the workplace.

Transition Leadership / Convergent Group: According to research conducted by the Convergent Group, senior management "often overlooks the fact" (Kimberling, et al., 2001) that technological change "impacts employees at all levels of the company." Indeed, "at its most rudimentary level, all change involves some degree of loss whether it is loss of stability, loss of expertise, loss of relationships, or loss of understanding."

This goes a long way towards proving that employees do in fact resist change, because it is human nature to resist losing anything; and losing any of the four concepts listed in the preceding sentence threatens bread and butter job security.]

And further, it is not so much the basic fact that employees appear resistant that drags a company down, but in reality, it is management's failure to guide employees through key transitional periods that can drag a company down. Managers too often are focused on technological and process changes, but they should also, say the authors, be assisting employees to integrate the new technologies by empowering them as a team, and building forward momentum towards positive growth within the company.


Logistics Management & Distribution Report: "Most corporations are like an iceberg," according to research consultants Pilnick and Gabel (Trebilcock, 2002). Ten percent is the visible formal organizational structure, but the 90% hidden under that structure is the "informal system" which actually determines the way a company functions. That 90% of a company is it's "shadow organization" (the "attitudes" and "practices" of its workers), and the way to implement dramatic changes in technology within a company is to "reprogram the culture slowly but steadily."

Pilnick and Gabel offer eight steps, in terms of facilitating a smooth business change (by employees) into technologies. Those steps include: "conduct a business/culture analysis"; "design an... intervention strategy"; "establish the scope and timetable for change stages"; "develop a mission statement"; "select the target [workers] and...choose the individuals who will host the change..."; "identify...change platforms"; "select culture-based tools"; "begin the transformation process."

The Journal of the American Dietetic Association offers practical steps for "overcoming resistance to...change": First, the article (Henry, 1997) notes that "resistance to change serves a function - maintaining the status quo or the organization's perceived state of equilibrium." Hence, the writer asserts, if there were no resistance, organizations would be unstable, lacking focus and integrity" because the company had no outlet for debating the need for change in the first place.

Answers and Conclusions

Change Management" (Brenner, et al., 2003) means adopting systems which help to create not just a new technology system within a company, but a vision for that company. In fact a change management plan, according to Brenner, et al., should comprise five areas of focus: "vision and goals, business benefits, metrics, organizational structure," and finally, a plethora of intervention strategies and recommendations to make sure the integration is as smooth as possible.

How to assist employees as they approach technological change in the workplace

When preparing for workplace change, in order develop a workable management strategy, the publishers of Prosci Research and Change Management Learning Center (www.prosci.comand (www.change-management.com) suggest managing the "human side of change, not just the business side." And business leadership should approach this new challenge by first ("Phase 1") defining the change, preparing a change management team, and developing a sponsorship model. In "Phase 2" (actually managing change) employers should develop solid change management plans, and take well-defined, well-explained action to implement the plan.

In Phase 3 of the Prosci Research model ("reinforcing change") the editors say employers should "collect and analyze feedback" from their workers; leadership should then "diagnose gaps and manage resistance" to change, followed by a program that will implement "corrective actions and celebrate successes." The model utilized by Prosci Research and Change Management employees the themes of "Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement" (ADKAR). The ADKAR model helps management assist employees through diagnostic tools designed to identify resistance to change before it becomes a point of blockage.

According to the Employee's Survival Guide to Change (Hiatt, 2001), "nearly one-fourth of major change initiatives fail because employees are fearful and resistant to change," so this issue is no small matter when looking at the big picture of jobs and productivity in the U.S. economy.

Does employee resistance to change explain the current job losses in America? And, it is apparent that workers must find ways to accept changing technologies.

Jobs are being lost by the tens of thousands in America, as we hear the heated rhetoric building up to the 2004 presidential election. An article in Fortune Magazine (Fisher, 2004) asserts that "well over half-million tech jobs" went overseas in the last two years. That in itself is a bitter pill for eligible trained employees, but worse yet, the livelihoods of "skilled and experienced techies" are "vanishing." Forget learning new technologies - you're going to be replaced anyway. Moreover, Fisher writes that albeit right now, about 5% of IT jobs have been sent to India, New Zealand, and Eastern Europe, by 2007, "at least 23%" of IT jobs will have gone overseas. So, it appears that even trained, competent IT professionals are going to be finding themselves looking for new skills and new training.

Why are the jobs being lost? According to Business Week Magazine (Cooper, 2004), one factor in the continuing loss of jobs in the U.S. is outsourcing. In the past three years, 300,000 jobs have been "lost" to outsourcing. And even though the economy is expanding right now, there is a dearth of hiring, for several reasons, Cooper reports.

For one, that high-tech equipment, which many employees resisted becoming familiar with in the late 1990s, has "given companies the tools to meet the new imperatives of competition and cost-cutting," Cooper asserts. General Motors now builds four different midsize models on one platform, in Germany, Cooper reports, whereas it used to manufacture those same midsize autos on four different platforms - which hired four different sets of production workers. Also, far few retail workers are needed because new technologies (like self-checkout counters at retail stores like Home Depot and grocery chains) have allowed retailers to "move a 35% greater volume of goods and services out the door per worker than they did five years ago," Cooper continues.

Further, online airline reservation technologies - like the systems used by Southwest Airlines Co. - is eliminating staffing needs. The upgrade in its online reservation system allowed Southwest to eliminate three of its nine reservation centers; more and more people prefer booking flights on the Web to phoning a reservation clerk. So, to conclude, technology is not only challenging workers, it is frankly replacing workers. But those workers out there who are reticent to adapt to and learn new technologies, and change strategies with the changing times, may find themselves not only out of a job, but potentially staring at a bleak future.


Bradford, M. (2000). Technology changes risks dramatically. Business Insurance, 34, 3.

Brenner, M.; Fontana, C.; & Godbout, Nathalie (2003). Change Management.

Destination CRM. http://www.destinationcrm.com/print/default.asp?ArticleID=3656.

Canton, Erik J.F.; de Groot, Henri L.F; & Nahuis, Richard. (2000). Vested Interests and Resistance to Technology Adoption. Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy.


Cooper, James C. (2004). The Price of Efficiency; Stop Blaming Outsourcing. The Drive for Productivity Gains is the Real Culprit Behind Anemic Job Growth.

BusinessWeek, 38-42.

Currid, Cheryl (1996). Resistance to technology can be bad for business. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/content/chronicle/atchron/96/07/21/bizcomp.html.

Fisher, Anne. (2004). Think Globally, Save Your Job Locally. Fortune, 149, 60.

Gattiker, Urs E.; & Paulson, Dan. (1999). Unions and new office technology. Industrial Relations (Canada), 54, 245-248.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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