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Barriers To Progress: 5 Reasons You’re Facing Resistance To Change In Your Organization

    February 1, 2023

    “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

    – Charles Kettering

    When you’re in charge of making changes in your organization, it’s easy to become excited at the prospect of positive outcomes (as you should). But sometimes not everyone will share your enthusiasm and that’s because most people are resistant to change. 

    When Justin, a Senior Partner at U & Yoga, identified a new state-of-the-art software to drive sales while lowering overheads, he was convinced that it would take their business to new heights, and persuaded his other partners to implement it. He worked on it for weeks with the software partner and department heads before releasing it to the rest of the team. However, the program was scrapped after three weeks because the employees refused to adopt the new system. 

    Resistance to change has to do with being unwilling to adapt to change. Employees who are reluctant to adapt may publicly express their resistance or show that resistance through their language or actions such as lateness to meetings, sarcastic remarks, criticism, nitpicking, or even sabotage.

    There can be several reasons why an employee resists organizational change; let’s look at five:

    1. Lack of Trust and Confidence

    “Do they trust you?” “Why ?”

    Employees’ resistance becomes a huge barrier when they do not trust or feel confident in the person making the change. When they resist, they are frequently reacting to the person in charge rather than the change itself. Also, employees may lose trust in an organization if they believe it does not follow through on its promises, changes frequently, or does not value them in general. This lack of trust impacts turnover and employees giving leadership the benefit of the doubt when problems arise. This often occurs when those in positions of leadership have not yet earned the trust of their employees, such as a new leader within the organization, or as a result of previous experiences that have caused them to be distrustful. 

    2. Poor Communication

    For change to be effective, you must actively communicate with your employees, as a lack of communication has a significant impact on even the most well-thought-out and planned organizational changes. Without proper communication with your employees, they may become defensive, lose trust in leadership, and do not have enough time to process the information, resulting in additional pushback. When navigating a change, it is critical to cultivate a culture of transparency and to share information with employees as frequently as possible. Misinformation and discontent can quickly spread through a workforce if employees are not given information in a timely manner.

    3. Fear of Failure 

    People will not support a change if they are not confident in their ability to adapt; they must feel at ease applying the knowledge they have or have acquired. As a result, change causes them to fear that what they do will be unsuccessful or that they will fail as a result of the changes made. As a result, when they are threatened by their shortcomings, concerns about their performance reviews, job security, and salary/wages implications, they defend themselves by resisting change.

    4. Constant Change

    Employees are less likely to fully adapt to and accept future change if programs, leadership, or systems are constantly changed. Frequent change often stresses out employees, reduces trust in their leaders, increases employee turnover, and raises health concerns. The timing of changes is critical in order to reduce resistance to them.

    5. Poor Timing

    Introduce change when no other major initiatives are underway. Resistance to change is caused by the how, why, and when. When you push too hard for a change, it’s easy to lose sight of important elements of your change plan, resulting in resistance because changes are introduced in an insensitive manner or at an awkward time.

    In Justin’s case, his project failed despite its many merits because he didn’t communicate the changes effectively to his team both in advance and during the transition. 

    His team felt frustrated by the new system and resentful that their opinions had not been taken into consideration. Turns out their existing software could have been modified to achieve the same goals and would have required only minimal additional training for the team. Something the leadership team would have known if they had just asked!  

    You need to understand that it can be difficult to adjust to something new, whether it is a new team member, a shift in your business model, or an organizational shift. Though change is necessary, it is critical to plan for and anticipate your employees’ resistance to it, as well as find tools to assist employees in effectively transitioning into it. In other words, you must understand the reasons for their resistance and collaborate with your employees to overcome it.

    To achieve goals more effectively as a manager, join the next edition of the Exponential Growth Masterclass LIVE on Feb. 20, 2023 as I guide you through the process of identifying opportunities for business growth and be more successful at work.


    Isioma Utomi