Participatory Practices During Organizational Change: Rethinking Participation and Resistance

Surabhi Sahay, Christine Goldthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To encourage buy-in and manage resistance, change managers utilize participatory strategies. This study examined the communication practices and perspectives of implementers and employees as they negotiated the change participation process to better understand resistance dynamics. Data were collected through interviews (n = 37) and observations (n = 2) with nurses and change implementers in a medical center. Grounded practical theory was used to reconstruct the stakeholders’ normative theories of participation in which multiple and often contradictory perspectives emerged. Asking employees to participate reduced implementers’ perceptions of control and increased their feelings of vulnerability. Implementers often equated participation with resistance and used different communication techniques to shape how nurses shared ideas, influencing their participation. Theoretically, this article adds to the study of participation and resistance by showing how resistance is constituted through communication by both implementers and change recipients as they attempt to navigate the inevitable contradictions that arise during the change process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-306
Number of pages28
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management

Cite this