Resistance To Organizational Change: Management, Causes And Techniques

The resistance to change  organizational is showing opposition members of an organization to change ways of working, teams, values, goals, organizational structure, among other organizational processes. This is a common phenomenon and one that can be managed effectively.

Change management is one of the most important tasks that can be carried out by the Human Resources department of a company to avoid economic losses and facilitate job well-being.

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Breaking or changing habits is extremely difficult to do, even if it does not involve addictive substances like nicotine. Diets do not work because they involve changes in habits.

Have you tried to change your child’s habits and you can’t? Have you tried to implement a new technology in your work team but they complain?The basic principles of the causes and development of the phenomenon are the same in both cases.

Why is change necessary?

Change is necessary constantly and even more so that the world changes so fast. I am referring to changes in attitudes, behaviors, culture, organizational structure or work systems, depending on the situation in which you find yourself.

In a company / organization, collaborators / employees may resist changing ways of acting, methodologies, schedules, customs, etc. And outside the organization, in their common life, people also resist.

In both cases change is necessary; a company has to restructure to be more competitive or a person has to change habits to get ahead, improve their health or achieve new goals.

This is not because people are stubborn (actually too), but because the human being is an animal of habit. They tend to get used to it, control the environment and new situations tend to cause anxiety.

An example of extreme resistance is that of the spoiled adolescent who, from one day to the next, begins to be properly educated: he is asked to collaborate at home, to study, to have obligations …

What if you haven’t done anything before? Probably becomes aggressive or avoids. It is the same with adults or employees: the reaction to a change can be avoidance, aggressiveness, defiance, hostility, sabotage …

Causes of resistance to change

Not really. There are individual differences or dispositional factors associated with the change. Some people seem to embrace change, indeed thrive on it, others reject it outright.

This may be due to a personality trait called “open-mindedness” (those who score higher in this trait are more inclined to accept new situations) or to simple habit (a person who is used to changing behaviors or situations will have to do less effort than another that does not).

Change produces anxiety in the face of an uncertain situation; the person perceives their sense of security and prefers not to leave their status quo.

Depending on the situation and on some aspects that I have mentioned and that I will comment on, the change you want to make will be easier or more complicated. And also keep in mind that on many occasions, the mere fact of persevering is the most important thing.

These are the stages that it usually goes through:

Young people seem happier to change than older people, no doubt because they have fewer habits learned over the years or less to lose.

It is not clear whether intelligence and education affect a person’s attitudes towards change and its acceptance. It is a reasonable assumption that smarter people must be more inclined to learn new things and to see change as necessary.

Personality traits

Psychologists have found several types of personality factors that they believe are related to change:

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Neuroticism / emotional balance

Neurotics are prone to anxiety and depression. They see threat and danger everywhere. They are hyper vigilant against possible threats.

Change inevitably affects them more because they care more about what it means, what they need to do, and how they are going to cope with it.

On the contrary, emotionally balanced people control and accept change well.


Some people believe that they are captains of their own ship, masters of their destiny. They control their destiny and are effective. They differ from people who believe that chance, or fate influences everything. People with more self-efficacy manage change better.

Tolerant of ambiguity

Some people feel threatened by lack of clarity and uncertainty. They like things to be clear, predictable, and orderly.

Even in a fickle and unstable work environment, they strive to avoid uncertainty by using rules and rituals. The less tolerant of ambiguity someone is, the easier it will seem for them to accept change.

Other factors

In addition, there are other personal and organizational factors that make you more prone to change or not:

– A culture, personality or education that encourages risk makes change much easier. If you’ve never encouraged your employees, your children, or yourself to change, don’t expect it to suddenly be easy.

– A positive attitude towards failure makes change much easier. Some people don’t commit to change simply because they are afraid of failing. Although in the US people who take risks and fail are valued, in Spain it is something that is avoided and of which people are ashamed.

– If big changes are required, it tends to resist more.

– When the change has not been communicated or is suddenly.

– If the reasons are not known, there is more resistance. As if there is ambiguity, that is, not being clear about what is expected to change.

– If the change threatens the status quo, power, control, autonomy or job position.

– When change threatens the breakdown of personal relationships.

What makes you more responsive to change?

  • Personality.
  • That the information or changes presented coincide with the values, beliefs and attitudes of the person.
  • That a benefit is perceived in the change.
  • Gradual change makes it easier.

How to manage the change?

Just by understanding and knowing that this resistance reaction is very likely, you will have already taken a big step. However, it is not enough, it is also necessary that you understand what these sources of resistance will be in each situation and develop a strategy to combat them.

First, you will have to know:

1-What changes are you going to introduce: in your work team, to your son …

2-What will these changes entail, how will the impact be? Will they have to change their schedules, attitudes, the way of working, habits …?

3-How will they react? This is very important because it allows you to think about what you can do after that reaction. Will productivity decrease? Will the team / person become violent?

Next I will explain better the causes, what causes more or less resistance and techniques or behaviors by which you can guide yourself.

Techniques / tips for changing

-Make people participate: you can spend time with the people who will be affected and ask their opinion, depending on your criteria what conditions you allow to negotiate or not. If the person feels involved, responsible and with autonomy, they will be more motivated.

-Provides control: people are often motivated when they have control, autonomy and responsibility to face situations.

-If you do it and communicate little by little better: I do not mean that you have been implementing the change for years, but if you can gradually implement changes that do not pose great stress for people. This way it will be easier for them and they will have more time to adapt and get used to the new situation / routine.

-Communicate the change: next to the previous point, you can gradually communicate the change. You can do this personally and always assertively. You can talk employee by employee or with team leaders or go talking with your child: “You are old and responsible and you can start helping.”

-Explain the reason for the change: if you give reasons, it is easier for it to be accepted.

-Make them know the positive consequences, what is there for them in the change ?: a small proportion of the resistance is eliminated if the person comes to understand that the change will benefit them.

-Listen to the objections (you hit) to the change and try to solve them: it helps people to overcome the barriers they have to adapt to the new situation. If they are interested and willing employees, it will be easier for you. But if it is a teenager you will have to be more patient and democratic: be strict but reward when it is deserved.

-Find out what benefits of change can solve your problems. A change in routine can save time, improve productivity, increase responsibility …

-Go on giving feedback and rewards: if you see that the group or person is progressing and adapting, communicate what they are doing well and encourage them. If you expect more, communicate it assertively as well.

Have you already tried? What is your case? Comment below. I’m interested!

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