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Change Management

Why do people Resist Change? | #ChangeManagement


Is your change doomed? Is everyone going to resist it?

It’s a common belief that people resist change, however, there are schools of thought that show people enjoy change and embrace variety. What is more important though is how people react and what happens to them during a change.

Do they feel like they are part of the change, or is it just something that is being done to them? Have they been able to provide their thoughts and ideas, or are they just ignored? Have they been given the chance to embrace the change or are they simply a victim of it?

Change impacts people

People do not naturally resist change, but they do fear the unknown, and fear breeds resistance!

What do we know about people when confronted with change….. they experience:

  • Sense of loss, confusion
  • Mistrust and a “what’s in it for me” focus
  • Fear of letting go of the past
  • Uncertainty, emotional stress, anxiety
  • Perceived high levels of inconsistency
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Increased conflicts — especially between groups
  • Loss of face – people are invested in the old way of doing things
  • Fear that they will not be able to do the new or revised job
  • Concerns that they will get more work!

These feelings drive resistance

But then we layer on top other circumstances that make the situation worse, such as decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences. What happens if some of the fears and concerns are real, perhaps its a merger of departments or large scale lay-offs. These all drive resistance.

The Loss or Bereavement Curve

Bereavement Curve

This curve describes the stages people go through during a change, the same as when they suffer a loss or bereavement. In this case they are losing the “norm”, what they have come to rely upon. It may be simple things that they are losing, such as not being able to have coffee with a good friend, or taking away something that they have invested a lot of time in making themselves an expert. All things that lead to resistance.

Think about a change you went through, you should recognise the stages. Were you shocked, did you try to ignore it, then get angry? But eventually you got to accept and embrace it.

Good change leadership makes the valley not as deep and makes the time to get to acceptance shorter. Different groups / people move thru the curve at different rates – a good leader needs to recognise this and adapt their approach to those individuals or teams. A good change management and resistance plan needs to take this into account.

Employees need to feel that they are part of the change. It’s not just something that is being done to them! The more they feel involved the less resistance you will get.

Approaches to reduce resistance

  • Communicate frequently in various forms – one size does not fit all. People need to hear key messages 5-7 times before they remember them.
  • Effective communication involves listening, it’s not one way! Hear their concerns and suggestions, utilise that input to modify the approach. Your objective is to have them feel they are part of the change, helping shape it. They are not just victims of the change.
  • Show people the path to the future state – they need to be guided to the end goal, show them the way. If they can see how to get there and it does not appear onerous then they are more likely to give it a try.
  • Make it clear what they need to do – you will need their help and input to achieve your change vision, make it clear what you need from them and what they need to do to help.
  • Make it easy – above all make it as easy as possible for the people involved. If its impossible they will run for cover!

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you want to know more please see the suggested articles below.


Related articles:

HBR Article: Ten Reasons People Resist Change
Change Management Coach: Reasons For Resistance To Change
Ten Reasons People Resist Change – HBR
3 Guidelines that Help Avoid Resistance to Change – Jesse Lyn Stoner

The Vicious and Virtuous Circles of Change
What Change Management approach should I choose?
Culture: The Iceberg that sinks Organisational Change

Change Management (Part 1) – Cracking the Code of Change
Change Management (Part 2) – Step Models of Change
Change Management (Part 3a) – Change Capability
Change Management (Part 3b) – Success with IT Change
Change Management – What’s in a Name?
Why are IT projects Change Management time bombs?
The Importance of Change Leadership – Beyond “Step Models of Change”
Beer & Nohria – “Cracking the Code of Change
Lewin’s (1951) original 3-step model of “Unfreeze-Move-Refreeze”
John Kotter – “Leading Change”
Martin Webster’s blog
Change Management Blog
The five motivators of successful change by Barbara Kivowitz



  1. Pingback: 70% of #ChangeManagement initiatives fail – REALLY? | Martin Davis' Blog - August 13, 2016

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