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Managing Resistance to Change

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Despite the potential positive outcomes, change is nearly always resisted. A degree of resistance is normal since change is:

  • Disruptive, and
  • Stressful

Kotter and Schlesinger identified four key reasons why change is resisted:

Parochial self interest

Individuals are concerned with the implications for themselves

Misunderstanding

Communications problems
Inadequate information

Low tolerance of change

Sense of insecurity

Different assessment of the situation

Disagreement over the need for change
Disagreement over the advantages and disadvantages

Management trying to implement change will often come across other people in the business responding with phrases such as:

  • “My needs are already being met”
  • “We don’t need to do this”
  • “This sounds like bad news”
  • “The risks outweigh the benefits”
  • “What does this mean for me?”

Of course a degree of scepticism can be healthy especially where there are weaknesses in the proposed changes. However resistance will also impede the achievement of business objectives.

Some common reasons why change is resisted include:


Parochial self interest

Individuals are concerned with the implications for themselves; their view is often biased by their perception of a particular situation

Habit

Habit provides both comfort and security
Habits are often well-established and difficult to change

Misunderstanding

Communications problems
Inadequate information

Low tolerance of change

Sense of insecurity

Different assessment of the situation

Disagreement over the need for change
Disagreement over the advantages and disadvantages

Economic implications

Employees are likely to resist change which is perceived as affecting their pay or other rewards
Established patterns of working and reward create a vested interest in maintaining the status quo

Fear of the unknown

Proposed changes which confront people tend to generate fear and anxiety
Introducing new technology or working practices creates uncertainty

We have touched earlier on personal barriers to change – there are also several organisational barriers to change, including:

  • Structural inertia
  • Existing power structures
  • Resistance from work groups
  • Failure of previous change initiatives

Change is also resisted because of the poor way in which change is managed!  For example, a failure by management responsible for the change to:

  • Explain the need for change
  • Provide information
  • Consult, negotiate and offer support and training
  • Involve people in the process
  • Build trust and sense of security
  • Build employee relations

As a result of change resistance and poorly managed change projects, many of them ultimately fail to achieve their objectives.  Amongst the reasons commonly associated with failed change programmes are:

  • Employees do not understand the purpose or even the need for change
  • Lack of planning and preparation
  • Poor communication
  • Employees lack the necessary skills and/ or there is insufficient training and development offered
  • Lack of necessary resources
  • Inadequate/inappropriate rewards


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