Organization Management Journal


This article has three premises that stand in contrast to emphases found in contemporary organizational change research. First, examination of resistance must start with the individual. Organizations don’t resist change, people do. Second, people react not to the change per se, but to the loss it represents. Third, loss engenders a deeply rooted peril response that is largely emotional in nature. To support these premises, we apply Terror Management Theory to locate resistance in existential buffers: emotional defense mechanisms that prevent awareness of loss and allow participation in a larger meaningful system. We argue that the buffers threatened during organizational change are consistency, standards/justice, and culture. These in turn negatively impact the individual capabilities of sensemaking, competency, and identity. A theoretical model is erected that integrates buffers and capabilities with different levels, or types, of organizational change. Modeling multilayered affective, cognitive, and behavioral forces is necessary to unravel successful change initiatives.