Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Resistance to Change

Why do people resist change and how can a leader decrease resistance?


“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Winston Churchill

The ability to change and adapt to internal and external demands are evitable to a successful organization. Even though change is evitable it can be very problematic to implement within an organization due to resistance. Resistance to change can occur on a number of levels but this article will focus on resistance to change in reference to people. People often resist change for a number of reasons, in fact, ten of the most common resistances to change are:

  1. Loss of control over one’s environment. 
  2. Fear of the unknown. 
  3. Negative view of change due to past involvement in change efforts (predisposition to change). 
  4. Lack of knowledge of why change is happening. 
  5. No communication surrounding the change/reason for the change is unclear. 
  6. Mistrust of the organization. 
  7. Timing of change effort. 
  8. Changes in the normal day to day operation. 
  9. No seen benefit or reward from change (ex: increased work load). 
  10. Employee are not consulted or included in the change effort/lack of buy-in from employee.

"Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up."
— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer



The responsibility of a leader is to minimize the resistance to change by identifying and understanding the source of resistance to predict when, where, and why resistance is happening. This information should then be used to build strategies for decreasing resistance to any change management plans. This can be a hard and very problematic solution to come up with. Can one predict resistance?

In short, YES but there is no easy way to predict the type of resistance that a leader may face. In large, people are very unique and everyone’s reason for resistance to change is different. However, a leader identify commonalities or trends of resistance within an organization. It all starts with communication. Communicating the why, when, where, how, and why can be essential in identifying areas of resistance. Communicating through change increases buy-in, allows inclusion, and most of all decreases the unknown. People are more accepting if they know what is coming even though they may not like the change.
There is no one size fits all way to eliminate resistance to change but as a leader you can minimize resistance. During change efforts, leaders need to have an open line of communication about the change to employees. Remember, change is already scary, so let’s not add to the fear.

By: Kay Lackey, M.A.
Organizational Development & Practice Management Consultant


January 13, 2014

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