Shh! It's vive la résistance …

Nicholas D. Sweers (Graduate Student, Information School, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA)
Kevin C. Desouza (Assistant Professor, Information School, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Publication date: 7 September 2010



The purpose of this case study is to highlight the importance of recognizing and mitigating covert employee resistance to a change management initiative.


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.


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.


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.



Sweers, N. and Desouza, K. (2010), "Shh! It's vive la résistance …", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 31 No. 6, pp. 12-21.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.