The role of emotional intelligence in managing resistance to change
Schmidt, Bani Johannes
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At the start of the twenty-first century the world is in a constant state of change and no organisation can escape the effects of operating in a dynamic, continually evolving landscape. The forces of change are so great that the future success, indeed the survival, of thousands of organisations depends on how well they respond to change or optimally, whether they can actually stay ahead of change. Despite the fact that successful organisational change initiatives hinge on successful personal change, this remains one of the most neglected areas in organisational change practice as the tendency of management is to focus only on the technical elements and requirements of change. This research aims to add to the body of literature on change by focusing on the much-neglected human element in the process of change. The purpose of this research was to establish the role of Emotional Intelligence in managing resistance to change. A literature study, which included more than seventy sources, identified the need for research on this specific topic. It was evident that the bulk of literature on and research into change is concerned with change primarily at an organisational, societal and cultural level and tends to neglect the human element. The literature study revealed that the concept of Emotional Intelligence links directly with individuals' responses to change. The researcher therefore drew the conclusion that Emotional Intelligence will play an important role in how individuals will manage the most natural human response to change, i.e. resistance. An empirical investigation was done by Lefatshe Technologies (Pty) Ltd, an organisation in the Information and Communication Technologies sector in South Africa, through the utilisation of two thoroughly researched and well-developed questionnaires i.e. the Bar-On EQi measuring individual Emotional Intelligence and Oreg's resistance to change scale. The purpose of the investigation was to find evidence that supported the research findings in the literature study and to investigate the extent to which Emotional Intelligence plays a role in managing resistance to change. The main research objectives were supported by the significantly negative correlation found between Emotional Intelligence and resistance to change. The research produced very interesting findings including the following: Managers, on average, have a higher level of Emotional Intelligence than their subordinates; Managers tend to be less resistant to change due to the fact that they understand the bigger picture better than their subordinates; Managers are able to manage resistance to change more effectively; Individuals experience change on an emotional level but resistance to change on both cognitive and emotional levels. The research study provided evidence which supported the idea that Emotional Intelligence plays a role in managing resistance to change, but did however, reveal some shortcomings, which opened the door for a great deal of future research opportunities. The researcher suggests that future research should focus on measuring managers' level of Emotional Intelligence and resistance to change by the employees, specifically reporting to those managers. The researcher believes that such research will provide much better explanations of the role of Emotional Intelligence in managing resistance to change.