It is a common belief that people always resist change. That is not entirely accurate. After all, if a change is positive, such as receiving a 10% raise, people can be all for it! It is more accurate to say that people resist the chaos that change brings. Such resistance is normal, it is natural, and it is going to happen.
Bearing that in mind, here are eight of the top reasons people offer resistance during periods of change:
- Comfortable habits. People want to maintain the status quo and avoid the pain of the transition state.
- Fear. The new is an unknown, and the unknown is often frightening.
- Cynicism. If there is a past history of failed change initiatives, people are suspicious because they doubt the motives of the organization and proceed to act accordingly.
- Self-interest. Resistance can come from the belief that something the employee values is about to be lost (e.g., money, status, power, satisfaction), and that the price of this change is too high.
- Lack of Skill. People may resist due to a lack of skill (“I can’t do this”), in which case it is the organization’s responsibility to provide them with the training necessary to accomplish their new tasks.
- Implied Criticism. The message that people sometimes get is “now you’ll do it the smart/right/safe way,” implying that the old way was undesirable and their efforts were futile and misdirected.
- Lack of Trust. Change is difficult to sell when employees mistrust management’s motives and are suspicious of official explanations. Employees may remember a prior change when the benefits were oversold and negative impacts were understated.
- Insufficient Communication. Without consistent continuous communication, people will misunderstand the need for the change, how the change will take place, and the benefits of the change. They will end up creating rumors of their own (generally negative) to fill the informational gaps.
Now that you know why people offer resistance to change, how are you going to respond to reduce the chaos that is created during change initiatives?