What is Resistance To Change? Meaning, Causes, and Ways To Overcome

What is Resistance To Change?

Resistance to change is the opposing behaviors of employees in the change made by the organization. There are many reasons employees resist change one of them is, they think the frequent change made in an organization has a bad effect on their position.

Resistance to change is one of the important sources of functional conflict. It brings obstacles in change adaptation and process. Resistance to change can be seen in terms of overt or immediate and covert nature.

It is not so difficult to manage and deal with resistance when it is overt or immediate. Examples of such resistance involve work slowdown, compliant voice, a threat of a strike, etc.

Cover or implicit is more complex and as such more difficult to recognize. An example of such resistance involves loss of loyalty and motivation to the organization, increased errors, increased absenteeism due to sickness, etc.

Why Do People Resist To Change?

Mainly there are two types, sources, factors, reasons, and causes of resistance to change consisting of individual and organizational.

Related: Causes of Conflict in the Workplace

Reasons for resistance to change: Consider the following reasons,

resistance to change

Individual Reasons For Resistance To Change

Individual reasons for resistance to change are based on some basic human characteristics such as perceptions, personalities, and needs. Following are the reasons that individuals may resit to change:


Human beings by nature have a habit to do regular work or making programmed decisions. They satisfy and feel secure in regular work and adjust themselves to family, society, and work life. They do not want to accept change if it needs to change their habit.

They analyze the weightage of benefits and costs before accepting any change. For example, when an employee used a route to go to the office, it becomes his habit to go to the office through the same route regularly.

As far as possible he does not want to change the regular route. He thinks many times about merits and demerits when he needs to change the route.

Security (Job Security)

Generally, people think that change brings a threat to job security and that is the reason that they hesitate to accept it. They find security in the job possess and the system that they are doing. In the case of management of an organization that plans to change the present work system, many employees would feel that it may pose a threat to their job security.

For example, when the computer system was introduced in traditional banks of Nepal, at the primary stage many employees resisted that change by feeling job insecurity.

Economic Factors

The probability of loss of preset economic gain is one of the reasons for resistance to change. Many people believe that change would bring complexity and it becomes difficult for them to adapt to changing systems and procedures.

They may fear a reduction in responsibilities and working hours and due to which remuneration will be automatically minimized.

Fear of Unknown

Change brings new knowledge and system to working procedures. People having limited knowledge, lack of creativity, and initiation may feel fear of the unknown if any change occurred in the workplace, co-workers, or in a working system. They feel difficult to make decisions, to accept change.

For example, when a computer system was first introduced in Nepal, employees of many organizations feel difficult to accept computerization because of fear of the unknown.

Selective Information Processing

Individuals shape their world through their perceptions. When something is selected in the processing of information, people do not want to divert their perceptions toward others. They hear what they want to hear.

They ignore information that challenges the world they have created. Therefore, when any change occurred in working procedures against the perceived world, people resist the change. In this way, it also becomes one of the reasons for resistance to change.

Organizational Reasons For Resistance To Change

Organizations are conservative in nature and they do not want to accept any change easily. The structure and design of the majority of business organizations are also difficult to change. The following are the sources of organizational resistance to change:

Structural Inertia

Organizations have their own structure and system to maintain stability in performance. They have specific procedures of selection, training, role, and other socialization techniques.

Employees have a formal job description, and they have to follow specified rules and procedures for the completion of a given job. When an organization is confronted with change, this structural inertia acts as resistance.

Limited Focus on Change

The organization’s total system is constituted of a number of interrelated and interdependent subsystems. A subsystem can not be changed without affecting other subsystems.

For example, the computerization of the financial system may become ineffective if other systems of the organization remain unchanged. Therefore, limited changes in subsystems become worthless as they may be neutralized by the total system.

Group Inertia

Individuals work in the organization in a group and they consider the group norms, systems, and values. If individuals want to change their behavior, group norms act as a constraint.

Related: What is a Group?

For example, an individual a union member may be willing to accept a change in his job suggested by management. But if union norms dictate resisting any change made by the management, employees resist change in their job.

Threat To Expertise

Fear of losing the importance of the job is one of the reasons for resistance to change. Changes in organizational systems and procedures may threaten the expertise of one specialized group whereas another group of experts may get the opportunity.

One group of experts may have fear of loss of a job, demotion, less economic gain, etc due to changes in the present working system.

For example, managers and supervisors of traditional attitudes do not want to decentralize authority and responsibility by feeling that it may reduce their expertise and importance.

Threat To Established Power Relationships

Any delegation of decision-making authority to subordinates may re-establish the power relationships within the organization. Managers who always want to remain in power do not want to accept change as it may reduce their status in the organization, even if that change is beneficial for the organization.

For example, middle-level managers and supervisors do not accept a participative decision-making system of a self-managed work team because it can minimize their status and role.

Threat To Established Resource Allocation

Any change in the organizational system may bring the concept of reallocation of resources into departments. Departments or groups in the organization that uses more resources often see change as a threat. For them, change is a reduction of budgets or cut-offs of their staff’s size.

For example, the production department is getting more resources in the traditional system of production, employees of this department may oppose automation because it would minimize the number of staff.

Hence, we see all these reasons or sources of resistance to change as they have a major impact on the achievement of organizational objectives, thus these reasons should be minimized at an acceptable level and if possible they should be eliminated.

How To Overcome Resistance To Change in the Organization?

It is the responsibility of managers to maintain a smooth workflow in the organization. Managers must overcome any resistance employees show in the workplace.

The followings are some of the methods you can employ as a manager to overcome employees’ resistance to change.

Increase Participation

Involving employees in the change process from the beginning creates a sense of ownership and empowerment. This strategy taps into their expertise and insights, making them feel valued and listened to.

When employees have a voice in shaping the change, they are more likely to embrace it as they understand the rationale behind it and have the opportunity to contribute their ideas. This active engagement fosters a positive environment where employees feel respected, fostering a culture of trust and cooperation.

Provide Training During Implementation

Training is a vital component of successful change management. Employees often resist change when they feel unprepared or lack the necessary skills to adapt to new circumstances.

By offering relevant and comprehensive training throughout the implementation process, employees become equipped with the knowledge and abilities required to excel in their roles. This reduces uncertainty and boosts confidence, turning resistance into enthusiasm and driving better adoption rates.

Offer Support

Change can be unsettling, and employees may experience anxiety or stress during the transitional phase. Providing emotional support and guidance is crucial in helping them navigate through these challenging times.

Leaders and managers should be approachable, attentive, and empathetic to address employees’ concerns and provide reassurance. A strong support system fosters a positive work environment and helps build resilience, making it easier for employees to embrace and adapt to change.

Prioritize Employees

Putting employees at the heart of the change process reinforces the message that their well-being and growth are top priorities. Recognizing their efforts and acknowledging their achievements, both individually and as a team, instills a sense of belonging and loyalty.

When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to embrace change as a shared endeavor rather than a top-down mandate. Prioritizing their needs ensures that the change aligns with their interests and aspirations, making it easier for them to embrace the new direction.

Presenting Change in a Unique Way

The way change is communicated and presented can significantly impact employees’ perceptions. To overcome resistance, organizations can employ storytelling, case studies, or real-life examples to convey the benefits of change.

By painting a vivid picture of the positive outcomes and showcasing successful experiences from within the organization or the industry, employees can visualize the potential advantages of the change. This approach makes the change more relatable and less intimidating, fostering a sense of excitement and curiosity rather than fear and resistance.

Read Next: What is Planned Change?

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