Resisting change: organizational decoupling through an identity construction perspective

Konstantinos Pitsakis, Marina Biniari, Thijs Kuin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework that explains how individual organizational members’ self-construction processes motivate them to support or reject decoupling as a form of resistance to institutionally mandated change.
Most studies have looked at powerful organizational actors and top management teams that decide to decouple. This paper broadens our understanding through a micro-level approach that focuses on the role of individual members within organizational. Specifically, it looks at what happens inside organizations after the decision to decouple has been taken.
This paper identifies three alternative self identity construction pathways that members may choose following the decision of an organization to decouple: a) strong identification with the organization; b) strong identification with the institutional pressure; and c) adoption of both organizational and institutional identities. Our framework specifies how and under which conditions the way individuals identify and manage identity multiplicity impacts organizational resistance to change.
Future research could test the proposed framework particularly through case studies or qualitative designs that look deep into organizational processes and individual attitudes towards decoupling.
Practitioners, particularly top management teams, can adopt a moderating role in influencing the identification process of their employees. They can also communicate better why efficiency is more important than the mandated changes, and why decoupling must be supported to safeguard the organization’s “efficient” identity.
Our paper integrates institutional theory’s macro-perspectives with micro-perspectives of individual members’ identity and self-construction processes within organizations. It contributes to existing institutional accounts of agentic change and resistance to change through a dynamic framework that prescribes individual interests and preferences based on identification processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-852
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • institutions
  • organizationaldecoupling
  • resisting change
  • construction perspective
  • change management
  • corporate identity


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