Shh! It's vive la résistance ...

Nicholas D. Sweers, Kevin C. Desouza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this case study is to highlight the importance of recognizing and mitigating covert employee resistance to a change management initiative. Design/methodology/approach: This hypothetical case study takes place at a mid-sized consulting firm specializing in innovative web development solutions. An underground resistance movement surfaces in the final stages of an organizational restructuring effort, threatening the final implementation phase. The change manager, a young senior partner at the firm, is now faced with the reality that his plan may fail. The psychological underpinnings of the movement, rooted in the natural human tendency to resist change, provide a framework for examining the inherent difficulty of successful change management. Findings: On realization of the underground resistance movement, the change manager must act quickly to quell employee animosity before his plan is ultimately doomed. Although a solution is not explicitly stated within the context of the case study, responses from two senior executives provide strategic direction based on real-world experience. Differentiating between management and leadership, as well as understanding the importance of executive involvement in restructuring efforts, highlight the critical points to take away from the case study. Originality/value: Despite the overwhelming amount of literature available on countering resistance in change management efforts, few studies have examined the impact of covert resistance. Unfortunately, the high rate of failure associated with covert resistance leads to a limited supply of material for learning and analysis. By presenting this phenomenon in a case study format, together with responses from real-world executives, the hope is that the reader can understand the causes and solutions to underground resistance efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Business Strategy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • Change management
  • Employee behaviour
  • Joint consultations
  • Organizational restructuring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Strategy and Management


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