Challenging 'Resistance to Change'

Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 35 (1), 25-41.

17 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2013 Last revised: 28 Jan 2014

See all articles by Eric Dent

Eric Dent

Florida Gulf Coast University

Susan Goldberg

George Washington University

Date Written: September 16, 2013


This article examines the origins of one of the most widely accepted mental models that drives organizational behavior: The idea that there is resistance to change and that managers must overcome it. This mental model, held by employees at all levels, interferes with successful change implementation. The authors trace the emergence of the term resistance to change and show how it became received truth. Kurt Lewin introduced the term as a systems concept, as a force affecting managers and employees equally. Because the terminology, but not the context, was carried forward, later uses increasingly cast the problem as a psychological concept, personalizing the issue as employees versus managers. Acceptance of this model confuses an understanding of change dynamics. Letting go of the term — and the model it has come to embody — will make way for more useful models of change dynamics. The authors conclude with a discussion of alternatives to resistance to change.

Suggested Citation

Dent, Eric and Goldberg, Susan, Challenging 'Resistance to Change' (September 16, 2013). Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 35 (1), 25-41.. Available at SSRN: or

Eric Dent (Contact Author)

Florida Gulf Coast University ( email )

Ft. Myers, FL 33965-6565
United States

Susan Goldberg

George Washington University

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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