Addressing resistance to change
: an explorative study of the potential of external coaching

  • Bianca Brandes

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In recent years, research has shown that individual resistance is an obstacle to successful organisational change. Consequently, there is continuing interest in research to develop theoretically underpinned solutions on how to deal with resistance. However, while change management has been the subject of extensive research, there is a lack of research concentrating specifically on linking the involvement of external coaches with individuals who are resistant to change.
To explore the contribution of external coaches in a resistant environment, this study focuses on practising business coaches and business coach educators. This is accomplished through a qualitative research approach including 21 in-depth interviews. The study identifies bodily, behavioural, and emotional indicators to identify and deal with individual change resistance; enhances and confirms success factors in terms of specific attributes of the coaching process; and investigates training and development possibilities for external coaches in the field of resistance. However, there are also limitations to the research, such as the regional focus of the study participants in Germany.
Overall, this study demonstrates that external coaching is one of the valuable approaches in responding to individual resistance in a changing working environment. The original contribution is that in this nascent field, the research combines the fields of external coaching and change resistance to offer new insights. These include the understanding of resistance and its indicators by reassessing the positive-negative-paradigm of resistance and thereby enriching the theory of organisational change. The findings also underline the current discourse in coaching theory regarding understanding coaching as a social process and not just as a detached approach. The findings of this study are therefore likely to be of interest to external coaches and coach trainers, as well as to others such as mentors or leaders, who face resistance in their working environment.
Date of AwardApr 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorKaren Johnston (Supervisor) & Yi-Ling Lai (Supervisor)

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