The Pursuit of the Source, or The Inevitability of Death

Keywords: Organization & Management


The purpose of this article is to apply the method of the genre of studying chains of references to an instance of a secondary source of the contested concept of ‘resistance to change’ back to the primary source and thereby exercise criticism of the sources. This includes discussing whether the theory itself is empirically sustainable or sufficiently scientifically grounded. In the article, we adopt a theoretical lens of Critical Realist Discourse Analysis, mainly because it is sensitive to the importance of the influence of nondiscursive social positions on discourses. The primary source of the chain of theories of resistance to change turns out to be Kübler-Ross’s model of stages of dying patients’ reactions to their immanent death. We find that the model is systematically misinterpreted to fit the empirically false idea of resistance to change of the ideological discourses of management research.

Author Biographies

Mats Persson, Østfold University College

PhD, Faculty of Business, Languages, and Social Sciences

Jan Ch. Karlsson, Karlstad University

Professor Emeritus, Working Life Science


Adams, John (1969). Phases of personal and professional development. (Unpublished doctor’s dissertation.) Cleveland, Ohio: Case Western Reserve University.

Adams, John, John Hayes & Barrie Hopson (1976). Introduction, p. ix–xiii in John Adams, John Hayes & Barrie Hopson (1976) Transition: Understanding and managing personal change, London: Martin Robertson.

Peter Campbell, Tamsin Cox & Dave O’Brien (2017). The social life of measurement: how methods have shaped the idea of culture in urban regeneration, Journal of Cultural Econ- omy 10(1): 49–62. doi:

Choi, Myungweon & Wendy E. A. Ruona (2010). Individual readiness for organizational change and its implications for human resource and organization development, Human Resource Development Review 10(1): 46–73.

Coch, Lester & Johan R. P. French (1948). Overcoming resistance to change, Human Rela- tions 1(4): 512–532. doi:

Danermark, Berth, Mats Ekström & Jan Ch. Karlsson (2019, 2. ed.). Explaining Society. Critical Realism in the Social Sciences, London: Routledge.

Daugird, Allen & Donald Spencer (1996). Physician reactions to the health care revolution. A grief model approach, Archives of Family Medicine 5: 497–500.

Dent, Erik B. & Susan Galloway Goldberg (1999). Challenging ’resistance to change.’ Journal of Applied Social Science 35(1): 25–41.

Elrod, P. David & Donald D. Tippett (2002). The ’death valley‘ of change, Journal of Organizational Change Management 15(3): 273–291. doi:

Fairclough, Norman (1989). Language and Power, Harlow: Longman

Fairclough, Norman (1992). Discourse and Social Change, Cambridge: Polity Press. Fairclough, Norman (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual analysis for Social Research, New York: Routledge.

Fairclough, Norman (2005). Peripheral vision: discourse analysis in organization studies: the case for critical realism, Organization Studies 26(6): 915–939. doi:

Fairclough, Norman (2009). A dialectical-relational approach to critical discourse analysis in social research, pp. 162–186 in Ruth Wodak & Michael Meyer (Eds.), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis (2. ed.), London: Sage.

Fairclough, Norman, Bob Jessop and Andrew Sayer (2002). Critical realism and semiosis, Alethia 5(1): 2–10. doi:

Fleetwood, Steve (2004). An ontology for organization and management studies, pp. 27–53 in Steve Fleetwood and Stephen Ackroyd (eds) Critical Realism Applications in organization and management studies, London: Routledge.

Fleetwood, Steve (2005). Ontology in organization and management studies: a critical realist perspective, Organization 12(2): 197–222.

Foskett, John (2001). What of the clients-eye view? A response to the millennium review, British Journal of Guidance & Councelling 29(3): 345–350. doi:

Goodman, Elisabeth & Lucy Loh (2011). Organizational change: a critical challenge for team effectiveness, Business Information Review 28(4): 242–250. doi:

Gravetter, Frederick J. & Lori-Ann B. Forzano (2012). Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Harzing, Anne-Wil (2002). Are our referencing errors undermining our scholarship and cred- ibility? The case of expatriate failure rates, Journal of Organizational Behavior 23(1): 127–148.

Hayes, John (2002). The Theory and Practice of Change Management, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Hayes, John (2018). The Theory and Practice of Change Management, Basingstoke: Palgrave. doi:

Hayes, John & Peter Hyde (1996). Transitions workshop. (Unpublished manual.), Reading: Hyde Management Consulting.

Hopson, Barrie & John Adams (1976). Towards an understanding of transition: Defining some boundaries of transition dynamics, pp. 3–25 in John Adams, John Hayes & Barrie Hopson (1976, eds) Transition: Understanding and managing personal change, London: Martin Robertson.

Huzell, Henrietta (2005). Management och motstånd. Offentlig sektor i omvandling – en fallstudie. (Management and resistance. Public sector in transformation – a case study.), Karlstad: Karlstad University Press.

Imara, Mwalimu (1975). Dying as the last stage of growth, pp. 147–163 in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (ed.) Death: the final stage of growth. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Irgens, Eirik J. (2011). Dynamiske og lærende organisasjoner: Ledelse og utvikling i et ar- beidsliv i endring. (Dynamic and learning organizations: Leadership and development in a changing working life.) Bergen: Fagboksforlaget.

Jacobsen, Dag Ingvar & Jan Thorsvik (2019). Hvordan organisasjoner fungerer. (How Organizations Work.), Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.

Jones, David J. & Ronald J. Recarda (2013). Leading and Implementing Business Change Management. Making Change Stick in the Contemporary Organization, London: Routledge. doi:

Karlsson, Jan Ch. (2012). Organizational Misbehavior in the Workplace. Narratives of Dignity and Resistance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Karlsson, Jan Ch. & Ann Bergman (2012). Methods for Social Theory. Analytical Tools for Theorizing and Writing, London: Routledge.

Kearney, Kerri S. & Adrienne E. Hyle (2015). A look through the Kubler-Ross theoretical lens, pp. 109–128 in Vincent A. Anfara & Norma J. Mertz (eds) Theoretical Frameworks in Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Kellehear, Allan (2009). Introduction, pp. vii–xviii in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (ed.) On death and dying: What the dying has to teach doctors, nurses, clergy and their own families, Oxon: Routledge.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth (1969). On death and dying. What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy and their own families, New York: Macmillan.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth (1975). Death: the final stage of growth, p. 145 in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (ed.) Death. The final stage of growth, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth (2009 [1969]). On death and dying: What the dying has to teach doctors, nurses, clergy and their own families, Oxon: Routledge.

Lewin, Kurt (1951). Field theory in social science: selected theoretical papers (Edited by Dorwin Cartwright.), New York: Harper & Row.

Mitchell, Deb, Lisa O’Brien, Anne Bardoel & Terry Haines (2019). Understanding health pro- fessional responses to service disinvestment: a qualitative study, International Journal of Health Policy Management 8(7): 403–411. doi:

Morrisey, Locke J. (2002). Bibliometric and bibliographical analysis in an era of electronic scholarly communication, Science & Technology Libraries 22(3–4): 149–160.

Myers, Piers, Sally Hulks & Liz Wiggins (2012). Organizational change. Perspectives on the- ory and practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Newman, Jack (2020). Critical realism, critical discourse analysis, and the morphogenetic approach, Journal of Critical Realism (Prepublished). doi:

Oreg, Shaul (2003). Resistance to change: developing an individual differences measure, Journal of Applied Psychology 88(4): 680–693. doi:

Orridge, Martin (2009). Change leadership. Developing a change-adept organization, Farnham: Gower.

Pardo del Val, Manuela and Clara Martinez Fuentes (2003). Resistance to change: a literature review and empirical study, Management Decision 41(2): 148–155.

Rekdal, Ole Bjørn (2014a). Academic citation practice: a sinking sheep? Portal: Libraries and the Academy 14(4): 567–585. doi:

Rekdal, Ole Bjørn (2014b). Academic urban legends, Social Studies of Science 44(4): 638–654. doi:

Wiggins, Liz (2009). Managing the ups and downs of change communication. Applying the- ories of psychology to guide employees through the change journey, Strategic Communication Management 13(1): 20–23.

Wodak, Ruth & Michael Meyer (2009). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis (2. ed.), London: Sage.

Wright, Malcome & J. Scott Armstrong (2008). The ombudsman: verification of citations: Fawlty towers of knowledge? Interfaces 38(2): 125–139.

Yilmaz, Derya and Gökhan Kiliçoğlu (2013). Resistance to change and ways of reducing resistance in educational institutions, European Journal of Research on Education 1(1): 14–21.

Zander, Alvin (1950). Resistance to change—its analysis and prevention, Advanced Management Journal 15(1): 9–11.

How to Cite
Persson, M., & Karlsson, J. (2020). The Pursuit of the Source, or The Inevitability of Death. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies.