Why does organisational change create so much resistance?

change1As anyone who works for an organisation will have experienced (and, for some, this will be a constant), organisational change is not easy. Regardless how well intentioned the change is, some employees will still try to avoid, resist, or event sabotage organisational change.

We are all aware of the change curve and transition, but these don’t outline the reasons why staff resist change. Here are a few:

  1. Job security: In this difficult environment, people particularly feel vulnerable. Of course, if staff are to be made redundant, then worrying about it won’t change the situation – and I have been in a situation where I have held meetings with staff to work through the reality of their wild catastrophization of a planned restructuring, only for the implications of the restructuring result in an increase in staff! In such a situation, it is useful for staff to think about what is happening just one step at a time – rather than leaping to the end result of their own making. Of course, it is worth bearing in mind that when there is a gap in communication staff will start filling in the blanks themselves.
  2. Loss of status: This may not be part of the change agenda, but even if the only change is that the office is to be physically restructured or technology is upgraded, some employees will be alert to the impact on them – or, more to the point, their status. Again, transparency of why, how, when here is key to reducing anxiety.
  3. Lack of trust: Employees must trust their organisation to believe that their employer has their best interests in mind. “They’re using this as an excuse to get rid of people” is a phrase often used during restructuring. Open, honest communication can help to rebuild trust and decrease risk of eroding trust. And bear in mind, that people join an organisation, but they leave their boss. If your organisation is providing staff with meaningless (to them) updates or you are required to present ‘lines to take’, this doesn’t mean that you can’t supplement this with informal conversations to test the temperature and allay fears where necessary.
  4. Organisational politics: Sometimes employees will resist change because it suits their agenda. If you have a natural saboteur on board, they will often use change as an opportunity to undermine management, potentially the morale of their colleagues and so the process itself.

A precis of the above is that people are afraid of the unknown, where they don’t have control or input. Communicating a clear plan and two way communication is critical to eliminating fear. This will reduce the chance of surprise or negative reaction draining the work and the workforce.

A plan without a date is just a dream – Anon

Identifying the areas of potential resistance ahead of any change can help to ensure employees are on board; consider incorporating the most hardened resistors/saboteurs into change projects and take a planned, proactive approach to communication to oil the wheels of progress. Our next blog will develop this area of work to cover conflict management during organisational change.

change 2Have you experienced a period of organisational change? How was it for you? Leave a comment to let us know worked best and what didn’t. We’d love to know.

Changes – David Bowie

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This entry was posted in Leadership development, Organisational change, Resilience, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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