Workshop Theme

EWORA – Workshop on “Change Management and Resistance”

Theme of the Workshop


According to Gravenhorst (2003), “change” has become a consistent condition for contemporary organizations and “change” is needed for them to be able to adjust to the new requests/circumstances of the environment they belong. From the perspectives of Agboola and Salawu, “change is an unavoidable phenomenon arising from the dynamics of environment and it is inevitable for an organization that desires to grow, achieve its mission, vision and objectives" (2011). On the other hand, Gravenhorst underlines “the widespread notion that people do not want to change” (2003, p.2) pointing out that when there is a change process, resistance is inevitably embedded within the process. Any change can unsettle and challenge people because “it affects individuals directly by impacting their view of the world, their role in their environment, and the way their identity is constructed” (Pendlebury et al, 1998, p.17). Accordingly, dealing with resistance and benefiting from it for making the changes much more successful should be considered as a natural part of any change process.

For a better understanding of ‘what resistance is’, Carol Agócs  argues that “Resistance entails a range of behaviors: refusal to engage in joint problem-solving, refusal to seek common ground, silencing of advocates for change, sabotage, the use of sanctions, and another repressive acts” (1997, p.2). Pendlebury et al. suggest that there are several causes of resistance: Individuals may resist a certain change because there may be a lack of awareness for the problem (1998:199). The existing situation may seem satisfactory for the individuals and the exact reason for change may be ambiguous. The aspect of awareness is especially important for gendered dynamics of the academia since many academics, either male or female, may internalize the existing state of affairs and may not need the urge for change. The need for persuasive communication, which prioritizes the need for change for both genders in an academic workplace, is essential for this reason.  Another reason for resistance may be because the problems of individuals are underestimated and relegated. Individuals might be disillusioned with a project, which does not prioritize their reel necessities (Pendlebury et al.: 199).


The workshop will provide insight on the theoretical approaches to “change and resistance” and also illustrate practical tools and best practices that can help leaders aiming to make an organizational change.

The change processes this workshop intends to focus are not only restricted to implementing gender policies or organizational issues such as merger but also includes various other reforms such as technological developments, digital age and big data that challenge the learning and teaching area, innovation and reaching out processes as well as interaction with society as a whole. One another dimension of the workshop will be dealing with the “female leadership” and its interactions with the concepts such as future leadership, changing times and transformational leadership etc.

Aiming to set the common ground for the academic leaders to share their experiences of resistance in their careers and their ways of dealing with it, this workshop will help to work out the strategies for reducing resistance that can help anyone involved in a change process. Consequently, this workshops aims to create an exchange among the leaders of academia on the following concepts/questions:

  • Change Management
  • Change and Resistance
  • Strategic Communication Skills
  • Building and maintaining relationship with Stakeholders
  • The role of leadership in the initiation and sustainability of change?
  • How leaders can minimize resistance during a change process?
  • The integration of top-down and bottom-up  «energies»
  • How can we benefit from resistances?
  • What comes after “Change”?
  • Creating Culture of Change


The structure and focus of the Parallel Sessions in the Afternoon:


Session 1: Imagining the Gender-Free University of the Future?

Moderator: Prof. Louise Morley

Rationale: Much of the current thinking on women in academic leadership focuses on how to count more women into existing structures and practices. This assimilationist approach can deter many women from aspiring to enter leadership, as it does not always represent their values, professional desires and priorities. It can also conceptualise and position leadership as a site of struggle for legitimation for women in male-dominated organisational cultures.


A key question to be considered in this workshop is what are we asking women to lead and how? What in our diverse views and situated experiences do we consider to be a gender-free academia that we would like to see? How would it differ from current arrangements? What needs to change?



 1.       Round of mini presentations/ introductions - what we love/ dislike about our work as leaders?
2.       Brief Presentation e.g. I could report on some of the research that I have conducted on women and leadership in the neoliberal university?
3.       Working Groups - what needs to change? What specific actions do we wish to take to effect these changes? At what level? With whom? How we will evaluate success?


Session 2: Workshop: Leading change towards gender equal universities

Moderator: Prof. Liisa Husu

Rationale: Research on change towards more gender equal and inclusive universities underlines regularly the key role of university leaders, both women and men, as promoters and advocates for change. However, the task is not easy and university leaders committed to and engaged in promotion of gender equality report many challenges and resistance. These may look different in different universities and countries. European universities show a great variation in how gender equality is embedded in the university governance and management, how it is regulated by legislation and understood in the university community. Thus the challenges and resistances may vary by country setting, but there is also some common dynamics observed across country settings.


This workshop is focusing on exchange and mutual learning among women university leaders, based on the participants’ experiences, insights and knowledge on how to lead change towards gender equality in universities and on how to respond to challenges and informal and formal resistance in a constructive, innovative and effective way.



1.    Presentation round, introductions - role as change advocate and interest in focus areas
2.    Brief presentation on research on gender equality change, resistance and challenges in universities (Liisa Husu)
3.    Working groups to discuss and exchange experiences on initiation, building ownership, mainstreaming gender equality in your university, challenges faced, and how to address resistance.

4.    Summing up and lessons learned, ideas for future EWORA work on this area




Agboola, A. A. & Salawu, R. O., (2011), Managing Deviant. Behaviour and Resistance to Change, International Journal of. Business and Management, Vol 6, No 1, 235 – 242. 2.

AgocsC., (1997).Institutionalized resistance to organizational change: Denial, inaction and repression. Journal of Business Ethics, 16(9), 917-931.

Gravenhorst, K. M. B. (2003). “A different view on resistance to change”. Paper presented at the “Power Dynamics and Organizational Change IV” EAWOP Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, May 14-17.

Pendlebury, A. J., Grouard, B., & Meston, F. (1998). The Ten Keys to Successful Change Management. NY: Wiley.