Theory Base

Some theorists maintain that commitment to change and resistance to change are linked:  “resistance to change and commitment to change are not separate but related change management issues representing a continuum.“1  Within this continuum, each construct is presented as degrees, in a “low to high” fashion.

The Resistance Half
For it’s half of the continuum, resistance “can appear in mild to very severe forms.”2  Theorists have proposed degrees of resistance, ranging from passive to aggressive.  Related but outside the scope of resistance is the state of apathy or indifference, which denotes neither resistance nor commitment to the change.

The Commitment Half

As the polar opposite of resistance, other theorists have argued for 3 types of commitment.3   Compliance is portrayed as the lowest form of commitment, while championing is portrayed as the strongest form.

From 1-dimensional to 2-dimensional
While combining resistance and commitment into one dimension simplifies matters, blending two constructs into one presents difficult measurement problems.  By definition, a “line” only provides room to move forward and backward.  Human behavior (including responses to change) is more complex than a simple forward-backward motion.
A two-dimensional phenomenon is often illustrated using two perpendicular lines.  Two-dimensions enable many more possibilities to depict behaviors rather than only forward or backward.  For the purposes of more accurately assessing an organizational change initiative, this new change assessment model breaks apart the resistance-commitment continuum and sets them, instead, as parallel lines within the same plane.

The 2 Dimensions
The image below juxtaposes the resistance to change scale in parallel to the commitment to change scale.  This view still maintains a link between resistance and commitment, but in a different fashion. 
The x-axis is easier to decode.  Many researchers call this axis support for change.  For the purposes of this change assessment, support for change is depicted by a noncompliance to compliance range.
The y-axis is more difficult to label.  For empirical purposes, we're using the Herscovitch & Meyer (2002) "continuance commitment" measure.

While ongoing research will fine-tune the language, the hypothesis concept for this axis is described as a covert to overt scale.

Other considerations for the y-axis were:
·      Energy
·      Risk
·      Fear (reversed)
·      Choice versus obligation

At this point, the Merriam-Webster dictionary provides clarity for the y-axis.  They define the term overt as “open to view,” and covert as “not openly shown.”

The Hypothesized Model

Compliance describes a behavioral reaction to an organizational change.  It is the degree to which one does what he or she is told to do.  In the case of organizational change, if one complies, they are indeed changing, the degree to which is an open question.  If one does not comply with the change, they are either not changing (still engaging in old behaviors) or acting in the opposite way of the change.
Covert-overt behaviors describe the openness of one’s response to an organizational change.  In many organizations, overt resistance is unlikely because if one open opposes their boss on a frequent basis, that person will be fired.  Management has a term to describe one who opposes to often: insubordination.  On the other hand, overt commitment is unlikely in many situations because of peer pressure.  Too much overt commitment will ensure the “teacher’s pet” label.


1 Coetsee, L. D. (2011). Peak performance and productivity: a practical guide for the creation of a motivating climate. Potchefstroom: Ons drukkers. 24.
Coetsee, L. (1999). From resistance to commitment. Public Administration Quarterly, 23(2) 219.
Herscovitch, L., & Meyer, J. P. (2002). Commitment to organizational change: Extension of a three component model. Journal of Applied Psychology87(3), 474-487.

This building blocks for this research has its roots from 4 primary peer-reviewed sources.  I wish to acknowledge and thank the following 4 researchers who have all responded well to any inquiries I have made to them.

Their generosity is inspiring.

1982 - Daryl Conner's commitment curve

Daryl Conner views commitment to change as a 7-step process:

1.    Contact
2.    Awareness of change
3.    Understanding the change
4.    Positive perception
5.    Installation
6.    Adoption
7.    Institutionalization
8.    Internalization 

1991 - Arnold Judson's resistance-commitment continuum

1999 - Leon Coetsee's interpretation of Judson

Nature of resistance to change:
1.    Apathy (indifference)
2.    Passive resistance
3.    Active resistance
4.    Aggressive resistance

2002 - John Meyer behavioral change commitment scale