Dealing With Change Resistance

One cannot lead change without considering the roadblocks we all will face at some time or another. But because change is a constant, leaders at all levels of an organization must be mindful of the key steps to navigate those roadblocks. My work has shown me that there are some often overlooked principles that make leading  making change within organizations and propelling them in the right direction – much easier. Emphasizing the significance of these principles across all teams and with all stakeholders, is essential in fostering a positive and adaptable environment for growth. According to a recent report, companies that actively embrace change and implement strategic initiatives experience, on average, a 23% increase in operational efficiency and a 19% improvement in overall employee satisfaction.

Despite the inevitability of change, resistance often emerges, hindering progress. Understanding the causes of this resistance is paramount. People commonly exhibit pushbacks and difficulties in adjusting to change. Analyzing these challenges and exploring effective strategies to navigate resistance becomes imperative for achieving successful organizational transformation. Resistance to change is a prevalent challenge in organizational dynamics, impacting individuals across various levels. Whether at middle-level management positions or among entry-level personnel, several factors contribute to this resistance.

In the pursuit of assisting organizations in achieving strategic learning and development goals, it is essential to recognize the distinct categories in which resistance can manifest. Three key categories serve as crucial indicators of the challenges faced in fostering organizational change.

1. Logical Resistance. Logical resistance is all about time. At the mid and lower levels, resistance sometimes is time-based. There’s already a lot on the plate for that employee, hence, the push back. What the leader needs to do is to share with them the big WHY.

Imagine a scenario where a dedicated team member, already juggling multiple tasks and deadlines, is informed about a new initiative or change in the workflow. The immediate response is resistance, driven by the perception that there isn’t enough time to accommodate additional responsibilities. The employee may push back, expressing concerns about managing the existing workload and expressing skepticism about the feasibility of integrating the proposed change

2. Psychological Resistance. Psychological resistance refers mostly to the fear of the unknown, especially when people don’t know what’s going to happen after change has been implemented. An employee’s typical reaction to change is to ask: ‘What does this mean for me or for my career, regardless of the change in culture, change in leadership, new policies, etc.?’

This fear of the unknown is a natural feeling that almost everyone has had at one time or the other. Empathy should be the leadership’s response, that is, listening to them, identifying, and understanding their concerns, and sharing the vision of the organization with them.

3. Sociological Resistance. Overcoming sociological resistance is simply about understanding the values employees have in an organization. There are subtle behaviours your personnel have that affect the overall performance of the organization. If these values are misaligned, then people are going to resist change in different ways. What then is the way forward?

Leaders grappling with sociological resistance must embark on a journey of understanding and acknowledgment. By actively listening to employees, acknowledging the existing values, and involving them in the change process, leaders can bridge the gap between the established culture and the evolving organizational landscape. Successful leaders recognize the importance of aligning proposed changes with the prevailing sociological dynamics, fostering a sense of continuity and collective ownership among employees. Through this approach, sociological resistance transforms into an opportunity for cultural evolution, creating a workplace where change is not merely endured but embraced as an integral part of the organization’s growth.

The critical skills leaders need to manage resistance depend on the size of your organization and the number of people you can connect with as well as where the organization is on its life cycle. But some steps will always be needed – engaging in little, subtle conversations. During meetings, ask for their thoughts on issues that warrant change in the organization, or issues that indirectly or directly affect them.

Generally, there are cases that need immediate action, which may sometimes cause an immediate change in your work process. In cases like this, it is advisable to take steps to implement the change gradually, instead of throwing the change at the workers.

In Values Culture Period several of these scenarios are addressed with strategies and solutions. Grab a copy of Values Culture Period today or visit to learn more.

Have ideas to share, want to make a comment or provide feedback – email Corey at [email protected].

Scroll to Top