• 6 Reasons We Resist Organisational Change

    6 Reasons We Resist Organisational Change

    Posted 10/03/2013 By in CHANGE MANAGEMENT With | No Comments

    There’s a saying.  ”A change is as good as a holiday”.   In some circumstances that’s certainly true.  However in my experience working in organisational change, as a practitioner of change or as a participant in the chance, this does not appear to be a shared belief.  I hear terms like ‘change resistance’, ‘change fatigue’ when discussing the latest organisational change.  Change is a constant in our lives.  From a social or  biological point of view as well as from an organisational point of view.  This constant change is how we evolve and it’s necessary for our organisations to do so as well, or risk losing relevance and disappearing.  The success (or lack of) of organisational change is oft touted as a reason why NOT to engage in change.  Again, I think this is a symptom and not the cause.  I say that it’s people that change organisations, not systems or processes.  So,  by my reasoning, it’s also people that don’t change organisations.

    I’ve been reading and came across an article talking about 6 sources of resistance to change, from the individual perspective.  Or to put it another way, why people resist change.  I’ve presented them in the table below.


    1. Reluctance to lose control.
    • The loss of control is considered a primary cause of resistance.
    • Control is lost because change is imposed rather than it being self-initiated.
    • Perspectives of resistance to change that advocate employee involvement in decision making
      generally focus primarily on loss of control.
    2. Cognitive rigidity.
    • The trait of dogmatism may predict an individual’s approach to change.
    • Dogmatic individuals are characterised by rigidity and closed-mindedness and therefore might be less willing and less able to adjust
      to new situations.
    3. Lack of psychological resilience.
    • Organisational change can be a stressor, so less resilient individuals may have a lesser ability to cope with change.
    • Less resilient individuals may be reluctant to change because to change might be to admit past practices were
      faulty, i.e. loss of face.
    4. Intolerance to the adjustment period involved in change.
    • Resistance due to more work in the short-term.
    • Resistance may come from those who support the need for change, but are reluctant to go through the adjustment
    5. Preference for low levels of stimulation and novelty.
    • Those who prefer a lower level of stimulation may resist change whereas those who are generally innovative show a
      greater need for novel stimuli.
    • A weaker need for stimuli may be shown by those who most resist change.
    6. Reluctance to give up old habits.
    • A common characteristic of an individual’s resistant to change.
    • ‘Familiarity breeds comfort.’

    Source: adapted from S.Oreg, ‘Resistance to change: developing an individual differences measure’. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88:4(2003): 680-93.

    So What?

    I think this information is helpful whether you are responsible for implementing a change or are simply being affected by it.  You might use it as follows:

    1. Implementing Change – consider which of the barriers are at play.  If in doubt….. ask.  Work collaboratively to explore different ways to address the issue.  For instance, someone who prefers low stimulation, perhaps you can adjust how much information is sent their way?  Rather than daily communication, perhaps a weekly summary.  If resilience is the issue, run a resilience building workshop to help them respond positively.
    2. Affected by Change - When your initial response to change is one of general resistance I encourage you to look deeper.  Ask yourself, which of the above reasons is MOST likely at play here?  And more importantly, what can I do about it?  In my opinion, resisting change is futile.  You’re better off to move with the change and try to exert your influence on it from within.

    Please help me to spread the word by sharing.

      Sean is an experienced coach, speaker and facilitator who is passionate about improving the relationship between people, their work and the organisations they work for. If you want to get the most out of your managers, supervisors and their teams and think that work can or should be a rewarding and enjoyable component of a productive and meaningful life it might be worth a chat.

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