Resistance to Change

Table of Content

According to Mariotti (1996, p. 30), it was once said that the only person who enjoys change is a wet baby. As humans, we tend to resist change when we feel content and familiar with our surroundings and ourselves. The fear of the unknown often prevents us from accepting change. Maurer (1996, p. 75) argues that resistance is a natural reaction to change. To successfully alter someone’s mindset and approach to work, it is essential to understand the theory and techniques that can assist in overcoming resistance.

Resistance to change among employees can stem from various factors. These reasons include fear of the unknown, the potential threat to job security, timing issues, inadequate resources, lack of personal gain, and fear of incompetence. Those who resist change often experience fear and uncertainty about how it will impact their lives and the adjustments it will bring. The perceived risk of losing one’s job further fuels resistance. Unfavorable circumstances may also suggest that the timing for change is inappropriate. In many cases, organizations face difficulties in implementing change due to limited resources, including skills, finances, knowledge, and staff. Additionally, employees may resist change if they perceive no personal benefit from it. Those who believe that change will not personally or equitably benefit them are likely to oppose it. Lastly, fear of incompetence is a significant barrier to change. Some individuals may worry that they will be unable to meet the new job requirements (Grimaud, 1994).

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The main reason why reengineering fails is not because people resist change, but because management is unable to handle it effectively. In order to bring about change, it is crucial to address important factors like emotions (such as fear and anger) that drive employees’ behavior. Change can be a painful process, causing people to resist when they are forced into it. Despite the perceived benefits, all changes have costs for someone. Resistance to change is a natural response that cannot be avoided. About two-thirds of reengineering attempts fail due to employees’ reluctance to adapt and management’s incompetence and fear. Empowering employees and considering their ideas are essential in successfully implementing change. It is also important to regularly communicate the company’s goals and how they will be achieved. Furthermore, management should lead by example and consistently act in line with their words since people tend to trust what they see rather than what they hear. While these concepts may be easy to understand and support, putting them into practice presents challenges. Unless decision-makers acknowledge the different reactions towards change, reengineering will remain just an interesting theory (Fisher, 1995).

Despite the difficulty in overcoming resistance, identifying the most prevalent barriers to change can facilitate progress. Some of these barriers include:

The element of surprise can elicit resistance in people when faced with change. In order to avoid this, management should engage employees in the planning process of a change initiative. By doing so, surprises can be turned into expected outcomes (Armentrout, 1996).

Fear of becoming obsolete may cause individuals to resist changes that render their skills and competencies outdated. Management can overcome this obstacle by implementing initiatives to retain employees for new roles and assisting them in acquiring new skills. By providing this assurance, employees are more inclined to support change (Armentrout, 1996).

Resistance to change is often caused by the mindset of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. To overcome this resistance, it is crucial to show employees why change is necessary before expecting them to accept it. By emphasizing the advantages of a proposed change, employees will be more likely to back and execute it once they realize its necessity themselves (Armentrout, 1996).

A feeling of insecurity may cause employees to resist change and stick with familiar methods instead of embracing new ideas. To overcome this barrier, it is important to recognize the fears associated with change and establish a supportive environment that encourages and recognizes innovation (Armentrout, 1996).

Conflicts may arise due to personality differences, hindering the success of a planned change effort. Introducing change often entails forming new relationships among employees, which can lead to potential conflicts. To mitigate these conflicts, two approaches can be taken. Firstly, an informal meeting can be organized where employees are given the opportunity to express their differences. Alternatively, staff can be counseled to prioritize professionalism and work towards the common goal, regardless of personality differences (Armentrout, 1996).

Today’s managers need to envision the future and orchestrate the necessary changes to reach it. To make the process easier for employees and gain their commitment, managers can follow these principles for managing resistance to change:

Communicating the reasons for change to employees is crucial. Use this chance to explain how the change will have a positive impact on the company and help achieve its vision and values. When employees perceive that their intelligence is respected, they are more inclined to embrace change with an open mindset.

Management acknowledges the difficulties that may accompany this change and aims to ensure that employees comprehend its significance. It is crucial to carefully assess the impact on individuals and proactively take measures to mitigate any adverse consequences.

In order to ensure a successful change, it is crucial to effectively communicate all specifics and details through both verbal and written means. This will aid in clarifying the particulars of the necessary transitions.

The employees can be encouraged to participate in the implementation of the new method by demonstrating the advantages of the change. It is important to notify them that the new approach will address any concerns raised about the previous method.

To ensure a smooth transition, it is recommended to designate a highly regarded manager to lead the change initiative. In situations where the change is significant, a Transistor Management Team can be formed. Additionally, individuals who possess strong leadership qualities and are well-respected, but may not be in management roles, can also be included on this team.

Give individuals impacted by the change the opportunity to provide their input and express their requirements. Demonstrate how their suggestions have been included. When employees feel that they have a voice in the change, there will be greater backing for it. Utilize employees as a valuable resource; they possess a multitude of ideas that will facilitate a smooth transition. Encourage employees to take ownership and they will become dedicated to the change.

It is crucial to make sure that the change does not interfere with any other important events, like “conducting inventory in a retail store on the day after Thanksgiving.” Many businesses have specific periods during which changes should be avoided.

Protecting employees’ job security is crucial whenever possible. In case of necessary job cuts, it is essential to clearly define the criteria used for making these decisions, which can include seniority or performance. Addressing and alleviating employees’ concerns is vital as fear stands as the primary barrier to change.

Training or retraining is essential for employees needing new skills as it will develop their competence and confidence in the new approach. Obtaining these fresh skills will increase the value of employees to both the organization and other companies.

Employees need time to adjust and adapt. When change is gradual and manageable, it does not become intimidating for employees. Frequently, employees lose their enthusiasm when they feel inundated with either numerous changes or changes that occur too rapidly.

Consistent behavior from top management is crucial for supporting change. Sending mixed messages can have detrimental effects on change efforts. If top management states one thing but acts differently, employees will view the change as a trivial matter. Ultimately, employees pay attention to top management’s actions rather than their words.

12. “Share achievements and establish connections when necessary.”

If things are going well, it is crucial to publicly acknowledge and share the progress. Seeing progress serves as a great source of motivation. Additionally, listening attentively to employees’ opinions and suggestions holds significant importance. Neglecting their input may discourage them from further contribution. Companies cannot afford to lose such valuable information from employee suggestions.

One factor that can hinder the success of a change effort is employee anxiety. This anxiety can be mitigated through counseling, Employee Assistance Programs, or early retirement (Iskat & Liebowitz, 1996).

The implementation of change is a well-established method that offers management a structured approach to address issues vital to achieving business reengineering. It aids in identifying potential obstacles to change endeavors, evaluating and selecting the individuals responsible for executing the change, and uncovering potential reasons for resistance among those altering their behavior. Additionally, it empowers change leaders to develop comprehensive strategies to ensure the change permeates throughout the organization, fostering ownership and commitment (Arendt, Landis, Russ & Meister, 1995).

The use of active learning can greatly enhance the effectiveness of implementation.

Active learning is an innovative educational methodology that aims to help individuals overcome their fear, resistance, and resentment toward change by immersing them in the change process itself. This approach allows workers to grasp the relevance of new knowledge in relation to their own job roles. Role playing, brainstorming, cooperative learning, and critical analysis are examples of techniques employed in this innovative learning methodology. In traditional lecture-based methods, passive listening is the main way of acquiring information. However, humans tend to become easily distracted and disinterested using this method. Active learning, on the other hand, enhances comprehension, retention, and application of subject matter in practical settings. Moreover, it stimulates creative thinking and encourages individuals to view a subject matter from various perspectives. Research suggests that adopting these techniques in manufacturing education has the potential to increase interest, understanding, retention, and application of instructional information (Weitz, 1995).

Resistance is a natural reaction to change, as people tend to defend the existing state of affairs if they feel their security or status is at risk. Even positive change can make individuals uneasy. It is crucial for managers to recognize, accept, and collaborate with resistance in order to maintain the effectiveness and viability of well-intentioned changes. Dealing with resistance requires a variety of strategies, as the modern workplace is constantly evolving. Managers with strong communication and planning skills are needed to garner support from staff and successfully implement changes. Additionally, managers must be adaptable and flexible, willing to alter their management style and approach in order to effectively navigate the outcomes of change efforts (Stone, 1995).


Arendt, C., Landis, R.M., & Meister, T.B. (1995, May). The human side of change – Part 4. IIE Solutions, 22-24.

Armentrout, B.W. (1996, January). Have your plans for change had a change of plan? HR Focus, 73(1), p. 19.

Fisher, A.B. (1995, April 17). Making change stick. Fortune, 131(7), 121-123.

Grimaud, A.E. (1994, July/August). How to overcome resistance to change: The “7M Model”. Canadian Banker, 101(4), 36-37.

The article titled “What to do when employees resist change” by Iskat, G., and Liebowitz, J. (1996, August) provides strategies for dealing with employee resistance to change. The information can be found in the publication Supervision, volume 57, issue 8, pages 57-58.

Stone, F. (1995, October). Overcoming opposition to organizational change. Supervisory Management, 40(10), 9-10.

The article titled “Change – How to remove the fear, resentment, and resistance” by Weitz, A.J. (1995) can be found in the Hospital Material Management Quarterly.

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