Change Management - Resistance to change

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Resistance to change is one of the major reasons why change initiatives fail. It is important to have a good understanding of why people resist change so you can anticipate resistance and take steps to manage it.

It also helps to understand the types of resistance behaviour that you need to look out for, because it's not always outwardly expressed.

Why do people resist change?

There are many reasons why people resist change, many of which involve some sort of loss. The reasons below don't just apply to frontline employees; leaders and managers at all levels are just as prone to resistance for the same reasons.

resistance to change

Here are 3 of the most common reasons why people resist change:

They fear that they will be worse off

If people think they will be worse off as a result of change, they will naturally resist it, particularly if they have been successful under the current arrangements. After all, why would you participate in something that may have negative consequences for you?

This includes:

  • Fear of job loss/redundancy
  • Fear of losing authority and/or status
  • Fear of losing financial benefits
  • Fear of failure (i.e. being unable to adapt and/or being less successful after the change)
  • Having to do more work

They lack confidence in the change

If the organisation has a history of failed change initiatives, or the people leading the change lack credibility, people are unlikely to get onboard with the change.

They disagree with the change strategy

People may agree with the need to change but disagree with the change itself. Resistance of this nature is generally for two reasons:

  1. They have legitimate concerns about the change being the right change.
  2. They were advocates for a different change solution that was not selected.

Types of resistance behaviour

Resistance comes in many forms and it's important to understand that it's not always obvious and openly expressed. Resistance can be passive too. People might quietly withdraw effort and refuse to participate in the change without openly expressing any negative views. So don't assume that people are onboard just because they're quiet.

  • Active resistance - Active resistance behaviour includes being openly critical of the change, starting rumours, sabotaging the change.
  • Passive resistance - Passive resistance behaviour includes showing public support but failing to implement the change, procrastinating, withholding information, withholding effort.

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Next: Change Management - Managing change