Resistance to change
Change is one of the most dominant forces globally, and it’s no wonder we are all afraid of it. We try to resist change and avoid venturing into the ‘unknown’ as much as possible; even so, we know there is no escape from change. The trouble with change is that it makes us uncomfortable. In the blog entry, we will explore what causes change resistance, makes change uncomfortable, and what we can do to embrace the change.
“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
- Types of change resistance
- Change resisters
- Types of change resisters
- A complex change equation
- What you can do to adopt change
- How to embrace the change
Types of change resistance
- Critical of even the smallest details
- Fault finding
- Undermining, Obstruction, Stalling
- Fear mongering, Sabotaging, rumour spreading
- Slow to act and respond
- Lack of follow-up
We all are familiar with the employees who don’t like change. It’s easy to see why some fear a shift in power, the need to learn new skills to remain productive or competitive, and the stress of joining a new team. While at other times, such resistance is far more puzzling. Some typical reasons for change resistance are listed below:
- Loss of something – authority, power, benefits
- Habit and inertia of the status quo
- Perceived loss greater than personal gain
- Fear of unknown – failure, experiences
- Personal conflict change agent
- Purpose of change is not clear
- Limited resources
- And this list can go on and on…
As you can see people when it comes to organisational change, people have countless reasons to resist change. Personally, as a change agent, see three distinct categories of resisters and the problem it creates for the project:
Types of change resisters
#1 Onboard and Ready
- Politically aligned with the change agent
- Personal interests aligned
- Hijack the change initiative for personal benefits
#2 Appears to be Ready (but not so keen, slow movers)
- Like the past, “this too shall pass”.
- No trust in project success, waiting for its failure (Wait and see)
- Let others do the hard mile
- Supporting from outside, not behaviourally
- Passive-aggressive behaviours
- Conflicting priorities
#3 Die hard change resisters
- Active resistance
- Possible hidden agenda
- Not aligned with change agent, personal interest conflict
A complex change equation
Resistance to change does not always reflect opposition, or mean inertia. Even with a sincere commitment to change, many apply their productive energy to competing commitments. Employees with both talent and skills to progress with the change; Hard-working employees who are highly committed to the organisation; And those who support the change and conviction and yet, inexplicably, do nothing. Before solving this complex equation, you must dig deeper to understand the type & cause of resistance.
If you think of tackling these from a psychological perspective, you’re not alone. Here are a few psychological needs that cause resistance:
Competence: Need to feel capable.
Order and control – remain in power, keeping the authority predictable and structured.
Inclusion & connection – to be part of and feel important
Power – direct and indirect influence over outcomes
Security – job, position, role, wages, authority
Fairness – inclusion – colour, race, gender, ethnicity
Resistance can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy; when you expect resistance, you will find one. Could this be an excuse for the change agent’s failure? A question – change agents, project managers or managers should ask themselves first: are you the source of resistance?
What you can do to adopt change
It is true for an organisation to succeed in this constantly changing world it to embrace and adopt the change. One must adjust their expectations and way of dealing with unexpected circumstances. The key to change adaptability is surrendering to change itself, which is a vital leadership skill. Adapting the change doesn’t always mean weakness, and on the contrary, it’s a strength, making the leader multifaceted.
Take water, for example – Water is also one of the most potent forces on earth. It lets the current lead it where it needs to go without resisting, and it adapts to the path. While it’s adapting to the path, it’s also creating the path forward. That’s the strength of adaptability. So don’t be afraid to adapt and cultivate a culture of change. It’s the only way to propel innovation, intellectual development and innovation.
How to embrace the change
Two-thirds (2/3) of the large-scale transformation projects fail.
So here is what we can do to prevent this and deliver agility and innovation. Following four practices can be extremely useful to transformation change leaders:
#1 Recognise the tensions and paradoxes
The most common tensions & paradoxes a change leader or transformation leader faces are:
- Revitalisation vs Normalisation
- Simplification vs Globalisation
- Regulations vs Innovations
- Digitisation vs Humanisation
- Optimisation vs Rationalisation.
Successful transformation leaders have learnt to embrace these tensions & paradoxes, even though they make the challenge more complex. Their ongoing commitment to communication and listening campaigns enables people to have their concerns heard and discuss proactive ways forward.
#2 Hold everyone accountable
Enterprise-wide change is all hands on deck, or in other words, everyone’s responsibility. Change leaders must signal it is a collective effort with accountability distributed throughout the organisation.
#3 Invest in organisational capabilities
Change leaders must go beyond storytelling, motivating and mobilising efforts. They should equip the organisation to win and thrive in the unfamiliar environment, including building new talent, training current, capital investment & expenditures in improvements.
#4 Emphasis on continuous improvement and learning
Set the stage for continuous improvement and learning culture. The organisations that have been successful in this CI push are least resistant to change, twice as innovative and agile as their competitors.
Leveraging these four activities above while erecting the transformation efforts will fuel positive change over the long haul. These practices will create a culture of agility that will pay dividends into the future as large-scale change becomes an organisational capability.
In my next blog post, we will look at how you can overcome and motivate people and employees to adopt change. For now, I leave you with this thought:
“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”Charles F. Kettering
The Real Reason People Won’t Change. (n.d.). Retrieved 3 March 2021, from https://hbr.org/2001/11/the-real-reason-people-wont-change
4 Things Successful Change Leaders Do Well. (2016, January 28). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/01/4-things-successful-change-leaders-do-well
Leadership Wisdom from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma (Book Summary). (2020, September 18). Minute Snap. https://minutesnap.com/leadership-wisdom-from-the-monk-who-sold-his-ferrari-by-robin-sharma-book-summary/