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Managing A Student-Run Organization:
An Online Course



Forms of Resistance to Change


Before we look at the different ways of managing resistance, we should be aware of the different forms that resistance may take.

Resistance may be overt or implicit. If you have ever been in a meeting where someone has expressed his or her opposition to a proposed change, then you have seen overt resistance. In this case, everyone, including the change agent, knows that this person is resisting the change.

If, afterwards, you are talking with someone in the hallway, and she tells you that she is going to do everything in her power to resist the changes, even though she didn't say anything in the meeting, then you have seen implicit resistance. The change agent does not know that she will not go along with the program.

Similarly, resistance can be immediate or deferred. In the first example above, resistance to the proposed changes occurred right after the changes were proposed. In the second example, it sounds like the resistance will occur at some time in the future.

While we are talking about resistance, I should mention that resistance is not all bad. In fact resistance can be seen as being helpful in the long-run. Resistance can cause functional or dysfunctional conflict.

Dysfunctional conflict is conflict that prevents an organization or group from attaining its goals. Functional conflict, on the other hand, helps an organization to achieve it goals. Let's take a look at an example of both kinds of conflict.

Suppose that I propose a Young Democrats (or Republicans, if you prefer) Club meeting that invite the local congresswoman to speak on campus as a fundraiser. Someone at the meeting says that this is not a good idea, as the club has had the congresswoman on campus to speak, free of charge, and no one except the club members attended, even with lots of publicity. This would be an example of functional conflict. The member's opposition prevented the club from wasting valuable resources by hosting a "fundloser."

If someone in the club spread untrue rumors about me in order to remove me from the club, and this halted all of the club's activities because it split the club into two warring factions, then this would be dysfunctional conflict. The club would be prevented from achieving its goals.

The lesson in all of this is that one, not all conflict is bad, and two, not all resistance takes place immediately and in full view of everyone. It would be wise to keep this in mind.


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