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Reframing and reacting to employees’ responses to change: a focus on resistance
  1. Cara Reed,
  2. Aoife M McDermott
  1. Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Aoife M McDermott, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK; mcdermotta{at}


Background A hallmark of a leader is their ability to manage change—an ever-present feature of organisational life. Indeed, all improvement requires change, and in this context navigating employees’ responses to progress change is a key part of leadership. To support this, research and leadership development have historically focused on how leaders can reduce resistance to change. This review highlights the value of reframing classic conceptions of resistance to change as something negative.

Result Widening understanding of non-acceptance responses to change supports the provision of broader, yet more meaningful advice to leaders and managers about how to engage with employees in ways that can support improvement. To do this, the article identifies why resistance is important in the contemporary context and then outlines three current broad views within research on resistance to change identified by Robyn Thomas and Cynthia Hardy. These influence how resistance is seen and therefore how it is approached. The article considers what leaders can learn and do to more effectively navigate employees’ responses to change, and how reframing resistance applies to the specific context of healthcare.

  • clinical leadership
  • improvement
  • management

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  • Contributors The authors collaborated to frame and draft the article. CR led the writing about the approaches to resistance. AMM led the writing on how leaders can translate approaches into practice. Both authors approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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