Resistance to Change

resistance to changeWhat is resistance to change in your workplace and how does it manifest itself? Resistance to change is the act of opposing or struggling with modifications or transformations that alter the status quo in the workplace.

Managing resistance to change is challenging. Resistance to change can be covert or overt, organized or individual. Employees can realize that they don’t like or want a change and resist publicly and verbally. Or, they can just feel uncomfortable and resist, sometimes unknowingly, through the actions they take, the words they use to describe the change, and the stories and conversations they share in the workplace.

However resistance to change happens, it threatens the success of your venture. Resistance affects the speed at which an innovation is adopted. It affects the feelings and opinions of employees at all stages of the adoption process. It affects productivity, quality, and relationships.


Spotting Resistance to Change

How do you spot resistance to change? Listen to the gossip and observe the actions of your employees. Note whether employees are missing meetings related to the change. Late assignments, forgotten commitments, and absenteeism can all be signs of resistance to change. Something as simple as listening to how employees talk about the change in meetings and hall conversations can tell you a lot about resistance.

Some employees will publicly challenge the change, the need for the change, or how the change is unfolding. The more powerful the resisting employee, in terms of job title, position, and longevity, the more success he or she will have with resistance. Less well-positioned employees may resist collectively through organizations such as a union.

Resistance to change appears in action such as verbal criticism, nitpicking details, failure to adopt, snide comments, sarcastic remarks, missed meetings, failed commitments, interminable arguments, lack of support verbally, and outright sabotage.

Resistance to change can intensify if employees feel that they have been involved in a series of changes that have had insufficient support to gain the anticipated results. They become change weary when this year’s flavor of the month is quality. Last year’s was continuous improvement and employee involvement and teams. This year it’s a focus on serving internal customers and three years ago, employees were asked to adopt a new management structure.

Resistance is intensified because, not only do you need to gain support for the current change, which employees may or may not see in their best interests, you need to justify the former change and the need to change – again.


Minimize Resistance to Change

In an organization that has a culture of trust; transparent communication; involved, engaged employees; and positive interpersonal relationships, resistance to change is easy to see – and also much less likely to occur. Employees feel free to tell their boss what they think and to have open exchanges with managers.

When a change is introduced in this environment, with a lot of discussion and employee involvement, resistance to change is minimized. Resistance is also minimized if there is a wide-spread belief that a change is needed. Find out more about how to reduce employee resistance to change.


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