I recently read this article by Torben Rick where he talks about 12 typical reasons for resistance to change. With resistance to change being one of the greatest challenges faced by any project it is important to be aware of and familiarize yourself with these reasons.
All members of a project team should familiarize themselves with these reasons as this helps you understand the people you are dealing with, why various tasks occur as part of the project and how you can be a part of the solution. Understanding why people resist change can only enable you to help them overcome the resistance.
Expecting resistance to change and planning for it from the start of your change management progamme will allow you to effectively manage objections. Understanding the most common reasons people object to change gives you the opportunity to plan your change strategy to address these factors.
It’s not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change. Expecting that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step. Recognizing behaviors that indicate possible resistance will raise awareness of the need to address the concerns.
At the end of the day all sources of resistance to change need to be acknowledged and people’s emotions validated. It’s far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.
- Misunderstanding about the need for change/when the reason for the change is unclear — If staff do not understand the need for change you can expect resistance. Especially from those who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well…and has done for twenty years!
- Fear of the unknown — One of the most common reasons for resistance is fear of the unknown. People will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction
- Lack of competence — This is a fear people will seldom admit. But sometimes, change in organizations necessitates changes in skills, and some people will feel that they won’t be able to make the transition very well
- Connected to the old way — If you ask people in an organization to do things in a new way, as rational as that new way may seem to you, you will be setting yourself up against all that hard wiring, all those emotional connections to those who taught your audience the old way – and that’s not trivial
- Low trust — When people don’t believe that they, or the company, can competently manage the change there is likely to be resistance
- Temporary fad — When people belief that the change initiative is a temporary fad
- Not being consulted — If people are allowed to be part of the change there is less resistance. People like to know what’s going on, especially if their jobs may be affected. Informed employees tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction than uninformed employees
- Poor communication — It’s self evident isn’t it? When it comes to change management there’s no such thing as too much communication
- Changes to routines — When we talk about comfort zones we’re really referring to routines. We love them. They make us secure. So there’s bound to be resistance whenever change requires us to do things differently
- Exhaustion/Saturation — Don’t mistake compliance for acceptance. People who are overwhelmed by continuous change resign themselves to it and go along with the flow. You have them in body, but you do not have their hearts. Motivation is low
- Change in the status quo — Resistance can also stem from perceptions of the change that people hold. For example, people who feel they’ll be worse off at the end of the change are unlikely to give it their full support. Similarly, if people believe the change favours another group/department/person there may be (unspoken) anger and resentment
- Benefits and rewards — When the benefits and rewards for making the change are not seen as adequate for the trouble involved
To win people’s commitment for change, you must engage them on both a rational level and an emotional level.
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