Resistance to organizational change Causes Techniques

Resistance to organizational change is showing members of an organization’s opposition to changing ways of working, teams, values, goals, organizational structure, among other organizational processes . It is a common phenomenon and one that can be managed effectively.

Change management is one of the most important tasks you can perform in a company’s Human Resources department to avoid economic losses and facilitate well-being at work.

In recent years, many organizations have embraced virtualization

Breaking or changing habits is extremely difficult, even if it doesn’t involve addictive substances like nicotine. Diets don’t work because they involve changing habits.

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

Why is the change necessary?

Change is needed constantly and even more so for the world to change so quickly. I mean changes in attitudes, behaviors, culture, organizational structure or work systems, depending on the situation you find yourself in.

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

In both cases, change is necessary; A company needs to restructure to be more competitive or a person needs to change habits to progress, improve their health or reach new goals.

This is not because people are stubborn (actually too), but because human beings are creatures of habit. Tends to get used to, control the environment and new situations tend to cause anxiety.

An example of extreme resistance is that of the spoiled teenager who, from one day to the next, begins to educate himself properly: he is invited to work at home, to study, to have obligations…

What happens if you haven’t done anything before? Likely to become aggressive or run away. It’s the same with adults or employees: the reaction to a change can be avoidance, aggression, defiance, hostility, sabotage…

Causes of resistance to change

In truth no. There are individual differences or dispositional factors associated with change. Some people seem to embrace change, in fact they thrive on it, others reject it outright.

This could be due to a personality trait called “open-mindedness” (those who score high on this trait are more likely to accept new situations) or a simple habit (a person who is used to changing behaviors or situations will have to perform less effort that is not).

Change causes anxiety in an uncertain situation; The person realizes your sense of security and prefers not to leave your status quo.

Depending on the situation and some aspects that I have commented and 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 act of persevering is the most important thing.

These are the stages they usually go through:

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

It is unclear whether intelligence and education affect a person’s attitudes towards change and its acceptance. It’s a reasonable assumption that smarter people should be more predisposed to learn new things and see necessary changes.

Personality traits

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

Neuroticism / emotional balance

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

On the contrary, emotionally balanced people are in 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 they are effective. They differ from people who believe that chance or fate influences everything. People with more self-efficacy manage change better.

tolerant to ambiguity

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

Even in a capricious and unstable work environment, they strive to avoid uncertainty through the use of rules and rituals. The less ambiguous tolerance someone is, the easier it will seem to accept change.

Other factors

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

– A culture, personality, or upbringing that promotes risk greatly facilitates change. If you’ve never encouraged your employees, your children, or yourself to change, don’t expect it to suddenly be simple.

– A positive attitude towards failure greatly facilitates change. Some people don’t commit to change simply because they are afraid of failure. While in the US people who take risks and fail are valued, in Spain it is something that is shunned and people are ashamed of.

– If big changes are needed, they tend to resist more.

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

– If the motives are unknown, there is more resistance. As if there is ambiguity, that is, it is not clear what is expected to change.

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

– When change threatens the collapse of personal relationships.

What makes change more responsive?

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

How to manage change?

Just by understanding and knowing that this reaction of resistance is very likely, you will have 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 need to know:

1-What changes will you make: in your work team, your child …

2-What do these changes mean, how will the impact be. Will they have to change schedules, attitudes, ways of working, habits…?

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

Then I’ll explain more about the causes, which cause more or less resistance, and techniques or behaviors you can guide yourself by.

Techniques/suggestions to change

N Participate in people: you can spend time with affected people and ask for their opinion, depending on your criteria, what conditions you allow to trade or not. If the person feels like a participant, responsibility and autonomy will be more motivated.

– Provides control: people tend to be motivated when they have control, autonomy and responsibility to face situations.

-If you do this and communicate little by little: I don’t mean that you’ve been implementing the change for years, but if you can gradually implement changes that don’t involve great stress for people. That 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 talk to your child, “You’re older and responsible and you can start helping.”

– Explain the reason for the change: If you provide reasons, it is easier to accept.

– Let them know the positive consequences what’s in it for them in the change?: A small proportion of the resistance is eliminated if the person understands that the change will benefit them.

– Listen to the objections (successes) to change and try to resolve them: help people overcome the barriers they need to adapt to the new situation. If they are interested and willing employees, it will be easier. But if you’re a teenager, you’ll have to be more patient and democratic: be strict, but reward when you deserve it.

– Find out which benefits of change can solve your problems. A routine change can save time, improve productivity, increase accountability…

-See comments 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, also communicate assertively.

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