Resistance to Change

Everyone is resistant to change. Why is this? It usually boils down to the fact that change is perceived as a threat.

Some of the specific reasons why people are hesitant to change are as follows:

  • Their needs are already being met
  • They feel the change will leave them less better off then they currently are
  • They do not trust the success of the change
  • They do not understand the purpose of the change

As a result, many may come to the conclusion that in some way the change is going to cause a consequence that will be unfavourable to its participants. There is an apparent fear of the unknown or a potential loss. However, this is not always true. Change can be good, and it can result in a more efficient, innovative and/or updated practices.

To implement a change you must be sure that the change is needed and will be beneficial in some way, so that you do not risk losing the trust of the participants by implementing a less successful way of doing things.

Implementation Change

The key here is to anticipate people’s resistance to change and find ways to manage their needs and expectations. When a change is to be implemented, you must provide people with sufficient details for them to understand why the change will be beneficial. By doing this, you can influence them to see the change as sometime good, and in turn minimize their fears.

Allowing for people to have a hand in the change process is always a good idea. People need to voice their opinions, and as a leader you must be open to their suggestions. Making people feel like they are important and that they’re not just going to be forced into a new system allows them to adjust peacefully.

You can make this adjustment peaceful by having changes implemented in phases. By doing this, you can address behaviour changes along the way.

Mistakes Made in Managing Change

Through a great deal of research, I have found that there are common mistakes made when a change is to be implemented and managed.  The main mistake made is the lack of emphasize put on people’s coping abilities.  I have touched on how people’s fears need to be addressed and hopefully have sufficiently inspired you all to see the important people play in successful change.

Another critical mistake is seeing change as an overnight event. Something that you can just put in place and BOOM, there it is. Done and Done. Change is a process! The adjustment is a process, and to be truly successful you have to respect the need for this process.

The following illustration describes visually why a process of adjustment is needed.

As you can see, when a change is put in place, people’s emotions go out-of-whack. They are taken out of their comfort zone, and a transition begins. Allowing them to smoothly adjust to the change, and begin their way uphill is an important part of managing the change. The main goal is to help them get to the top, where they are knowledgeable, and integrate themselves into accepting the change.

Just as important is the process, is the explanation of the change. People need to be aware of what the change will create. There must be a rational explanation of the need for the change, and people have to be knowledgeable of what the change is to accomplish.

Correct Ways to Manage Change

Even though you are allowing for an adjustment process, you have to be committed to the change and make sure everyone else is committed too. You cannot go half-way with changing policies or procedures. This will just allow for people to be confused about the new system, and wary of its success.

A specific outline for the changes to be made can help clarify your expectations of people through the change adjustment period. Defining the problem and what you have decided on as an appropriate solution will help solidify what needs to be done to manage the necessary changes.

Continue to monitor the success of the changes. Note those who have made efforts to adjust to the change, and find ways to reward their efforts.  This recognition or rewarding process will help encourage others to mimic these positive behaviours.

All in all, when it comes down to managing change, you must manage the people who make the change possible.

Works Cited

Beer, M., & Nohria, N. (n.d.). Breaking the Code of Change. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Google Books:

JB Consulting. (n.d.). Managing Change Effectively. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from JB Consulting:

Lee, S. (n.d.). Managing Resistance to Change. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Business Improvement Architects:

Straker, D. (n.d.). Rationale for Resistance. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Changing Minds:


7 responses to “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…

  1. Change is inevitable. People resist because we get complacent, and it is safe and predictable. That is why when a company decides to make changes, people fear the worst that their jobs are at risk. It may be a miracle in disguise. Change makes people alert and adapt to get back into a comfortable state.

    I know that this topic can be easily related to personal relationships. People get complacent with each other and it can get routine. Taking risks, and change within yourself can better your relationship with your significant other. Being aware and continually improve and maintain your unique competitive advantage is far more attractive than someone just enough to stay afloat.

    Good post.


  2. After reading your blog, I found that I have shared many similar ideas with you on my blog. I agree that when a change is to be implemented, manager must provide people with sufficient details for them to understand why the change will be beneficial. That is what I said in my blog, because employees must see the point of the change and agree with it.You also talk about mistake made in managing change, my blog focus on some irrational side of change management. They both point out some pitfalls to achieving the desire impact.Check out my blog if you want to compare the similar and different points of view.:)

  3. Great post Lisa.

    I agree that it is impossible to implement change overnight; it can often be a very long and time consuming process. And like Amanda said in class “after the change has been implemented then more change needs to be done, because when people start to fall back on old habits, then they will have a changed process to already fall back on.”

    I worked for an organization that implemented a new online portal that all employees had to use to communicate with work and each other. The problem with this was that the entire complicated process was introduced to them at once, in a condensed one hour session, because it was assumed that all employees were already relatively tech savvy. This really slowed down the change process, because employees would get frustrated with too many functions and would fall back on using phone or email for communication, instead of the new portal. The IT individual that we hired to implement this system noticed that employees were starting to fall back to their old habits; as a result it was decided that in order for this new system to succeed, employees had to be fully comfortable and confident in using it. Thus, once a week there would be a training session for all employees in using the new system; it took about 2 months for almost everyone to finally feel comfortable enough to use it, but there were some individuals who were very resistant to change and for them it took even longer. But, I believe that this particular organization’s persistence, through continued training and monitoring has allowed it employees to finally accept that change.

  4. I think the main reason that people resist change is the fear of the unknown, as you have mentioned in your post. Change replaces the known with ambiguity and uncertainty. When you finish school, you will be leaving an environment where you know what is expected of you to join an organization where things are uncertain. Employees in organizations are faced with similar uncertainty. For example, when quality control methods based on sophisticated statistical models are introduced into manufacturing plants, many quality control inspectors have to learn the new methods. Some inspectors fear that they will be unable to do so; as a result, they developed a negative attitude toward the change thus behaved poorly when required to use the methods. There is a cute cartoon on this topic that I found on YouTube, you can watch it at

    Another cause of resistance you have mentioned is a person’s belief that the change is incompatible with the interests of the organization. For instance, an employee who believes that a proposed new job procedure will reduce productivity can be expected to resist the change. I remember when I was in grade 10, the BC Ministry of Education decided to add the Portfolio to graduation requirements. At that time I thought it was a stupid thing to do (btw, I still think it is) and I simply ignored it by refusing to do it. Fortunately, they decided to let us go since we were the first group being introduced to the thing and it would be unfair to us that even the teachers had no idea of what it was. The reason that I resisted the change could be explained by the above factor – I believe that having to do the Portfolio is not beneficial for students since it is too complicated and it distracts my learning. I responded by refusing to do it and they responded by giving it up, because the change process was not well planned from the beginning. No one knew what to do or what was expected. In an organization, if this was the case, then the company would have suffered from huge profit loss. SInce the cost of implementing change could be very high, good planning is essential for the change to be a successful one.

  5. I agree, I think it is very important for people not to forget that this is not an over night process. It takes time and possibly some new employees to achieve this new change. I know that with the management teams I have worked with they expect change to occur on the next shift. Having these expectations only prepares you to be upset and be disappointed in your team. There should be a time frame of when change will be implemented and a reasonable time where it should be in full force.

  6. Lisa,

    Being the last blog of the class, I thought I would return to comment – it seems like a popular place.

    I liked the introductory picture as well as the catchy title! It’s a popular topic but you really handled it well and set a clear outline. The graph of the transitional phases was neat to include as I haven’t seen one of those before but it is quite detailed and realistic of all of the emotions experienced.

    Have you ever heard of the Satir Change Model? I think it is quite relevant and it shows how one can only reach a certain peak and not make it any further unless they create change. Take a look:

    Take care,
    David D.

  7. I really like this topic and it seems to pop up in class a lot. It is natural to resist change especially when it might affect your job and how well you think you know it (at present). The progression you showed on the graph seems to be quite accurate, whether those feelings last for a minute or a month I think anyone going through major changes goes through most of those emotions. In order to manage changes in your organization you must also be prepared to deal with how your employees may react, there are about 6 basic steps outlined in this article, because knowing and understanding how the changes might affect employees ahead of time might actually help with some of the resistance employees might have.
    Good job lisa!

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