Why People Resist Change

Inform, Engage, Transform


of our most popular articles

1. When the status quo is perceived to be satisfactory.

Resistance will be less if participants clearly understand the basic problem or opportunity and the consequences to maintaining the status quo. Create a “burning platform,” outline a real or hypothetical scenario about what will happen if status quo continues to be the norm.

2. When the purpose of change is not clearly understood.

Resistance will be reduced if provisions are made for participants to ask questions and give feedback about the change. They need to know the “why” behind the “what” and the “how.” In the absence of adequate information, people will invent their own—this may lead to imaginary problems.

3. When people become engaged in short-term, myopic thinking.

People resist change because they won’t defer gratification and because they can’t see beyond the boundaries of their own worldviews. Resistance will be less if you can substantiate the long-term payoffs of the change effort and encourage participants to see the personal benefits to the change.

4. When the change agent is not trusted or respected.

Resistance will be less if participants see that the change effort is supported and endorsed by key opinion leaders within the organization. Do you have credibility? Have you EARNED the respect of those affected by the change? Personality conflicts between the change agent and participants may cause resistance to change. Treating people with dignity, respect, and integrity helps in eliminating this type of resistance.

5. When those affected by it are not involved in the planning.

Resistance will be less if participants feel that the project is their own—not one devised by outsiders. Participants should be asked to contribute (knowledge, attitudes, suggestions, feelings, opinions) to the change.

6. When those affected lack courage and self-confidence.

Change threatens our self-esteem. Resistance will diminish when we help people focus on things they can control. By focusing on things we can control we can reduce the innate fear of the unknown. As you help people successfully break down a major change into manageable parts, you will help them develop the courage and confidence to proactively confront and manage other aspects of the change.

7. When there is personal fear of failure to master new skills.

Mastering new skills can be hard at first. That’s okay – embrace the suck! Resistance will be less if participants are given the appropriate training & education. Tell them why you choose them (for what qualities) to be a part of the change effort. Implementing the change on a trial basis may reassure the person that success is possible. Change on a trial basis can reduce the fear of personal loss and give the people involved an opportunity to get more facts about the change.

8. When there is a fear of personal loss of ego, status, power, or resources.

Change can step on the ego of the recipient — it requires “those who think they have arrived” to admit they have been wrong. Reduction in the skill required, the importance of the job, or the responsibility of the worker involved may create insecurity and lead to resistance. Reassure people of their worth to the organization. Resistance will be reduced when participants understand how the change effort will further or contribute to their vested interests.

9. When work pressure is excessive and planning is haphazard or insufficient during the implementation phase of the change.

Resistance will be less if the change is timed and planned well. When change comes as a surprise people will resist it. Participants need time to evaluate change before it occurs. Those affected should be informed well in advance. If a new change comes on the heels of a previous change, particularly one that failed, you may be overloading the system. The timing for change must be well-thought-out.

10. When implementation strategies appear to be rigid and inflexible.

Resistance will be less if the change effort is kept open to revision and reconsideration if experience indicates that modifications would be desirable.

Are you ready to flex your courage muscle? Here’s 8 Culture Change Strategies to turn things around.