Dealing with Resistance in change management

Change management

Change management guides leaders on how to equip, prepare, and support employees with strategies of adapting to change effectively to maximize the organizational outcome. Change is inevitable, and managers must be ready to guide employees through the change process for it to be successful. Moreover, reasons such as fearing the unknown, incompetence, job loss, misunderstanding the need for change, lack of trust, and poor communication can result in resistance. Unfortunately, some employees resist change even before they understand more about it. The best way to foster change acceptance and to reduce resistance is by involving the employees in the change process for them to be part of it. On the other hand, the strategies for overcoming resistance are vital for every manager. To handle resistance, managers can formally address the resistance, identify the cause of resistance, develop ways of dealing with opposition, work on communication, and implement the change in steps. If managers implement resistance management effectively, the employees will accept and own the change effectively

Dealing with Resistance in change management

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Change management is a discipline that guides leaders on how to equip, prepare, and support employees with strategies of adapting to change effectively to maximize organizational success. Change is inevitable, and it is, in most cases, required when addressing vital issues, seizing opportunities, and improving performance. Nevertheless, change can affect employee performance, job roles, and organizational structure. An organization must employ change management techniques for it to transition through the change process successfully. Moreover, when adopting change, an organization needs to select paramount change management initiatives that are in line with the strategic direction of the organization (Doppelt, 2017). Organizations adopt changes to maximize their outcome, to make work easier, and to deal with the available loopholes. However, the change management process may encounter challenges such as wreaking havoc on the employees. Resistance to change is human nature, and employee resistance to change should be seen as a typical scenario. According to Hayes (2018), managers need to be sensitive when announcing a change, and they must put themselves on the employee’s shoes before making a change decision. Ultimately, when an organization manages change correctly, the employees will automatically perceive the benefits of the change rather than its limitations. For leaders to be more competent, they need to comprehend more about resistance to change for them to deal with it properly. Understanding more about the strategy of dealing with resistance to change management is, therefore, essential as leaders require to employ the skill for them to be effective.



Reasons for Change Resistance

Change is never an easy process; employees usually have valid reasons for resisting change in most cases. One of the reasons for change resistance is the fear of the unknown. When the employees get to know about a change plan, they find themselves fearing the unknown. Unfortunately, lack of knowledge on the impact of the change is worse as they become uncertain about their fate. Springing change surprises are dangerous, and they can interfere with the emotional well-being of the employees (Hayes, 2018). Taking steps towards the unknown is a difficult task, and workers can end up feeling stressed. An organization must prepare its employees well by giving them all the detail of the change process for them to adapt through the process well. Elsewhere, fear that they may lose their jobs is another contributor to resistance. Anything, which can threaten a person’s job security, is terrifying. Some people may perceive the change as a way of being fired as most companies tend to remove redundant jobs. Nevertheless, the loss of job status is terrifying, and no one ever wants to be demoted. The changes that involve the reduction and elimination of people attract high levels of resistance, as no one knows about his or her fate. Mishandling changes that involve employee’s job positions can affect the longtime effectiveness of the workers. Employee’s performance may also reduce as they are not sure of their job security.

Subsequently, lack of communication on the change process can encourage employee resistance. Making a change without proper communication is unfair, and it can interfere with the employee’s morale. When employees lack knowledge about the reasons for change, they will automatically get uncomfortable with the change. Communication is vital in every aspect of life, and managers should develop a culture of communicating with the employees more often. Before implementing change, a manager should schedule a meeting to discuss how the change will affect the employees (Doppelt, 2017). The meeting will also be a vital platform, as the management will address the fears of the employees to reduce resistance. Similarly, misunderstanding the need for change can also foster resistance in an organization. The reason for a change may be unclear as some companies tend to hide the main reason behind a change. Misunderstanding is dangerous, and no one can easily give in to a change they know nothing about. Resistance comes about when the employees feel that there is a fishy reason behind the change. When change reason is hidden, the employees have a feeling that it will harm them, so they resist. In most cases, when the employees are confident that the current program is working well for them, they end up resisting the change.

Nevertheless, lack of competence can result in employee resistance to change. When one is not competent enough, they end up feeling that they may not transition well through the change process. Many people seldom admit that incompetence is their reason for resistance. Some employees fear failure, and they feel that the change may make them fail. Funnily, some resist because they think that they may not adapt quickly to the new work requirements (Cameron and Green, 2019). The fear is dangerous, and they may automatically feel uncomfortable as a result. Fear is indeed a strong motivator for resistance as it hardens people’s hearts. Therefore, for a change process to be successful, the managers must address the employee’s fear and assure them that their competence may not automatically reduce due to change. On the other hand, politics in an organization can strengthen the people’s will to resist. Organizational politics has been existing for years, and it is present in most workplaces. For employees to prove to the management that the change is wrong or unethical, they may use resistance. Other workers also resist change as they feel that the move will make them lose their power and influence. In such cases, the affected individuals strive to make the change process fails. The tactic that they can employ to fail the process may be influencing others to resist. Political resistance can frustrate managers, especially when the change is vital. In such an instance, managers should be aggressive enough to counter the opposition for the organization to be at a better place.

Elsewhere, when the employee’s rewards are not well aligned, they may resist change. When the change is of great reward to the employees, they cannot resist it. Managers get back what they reward if the reward is good, the outcome becomes even better, and if the reward is bad, the outcome becomes unbearable (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015). Managers need to come up with a way of rewarding employees for implementing a change. If a reward is put in place, the employees will implement the change well without any resistance. Non-monetary rewards are the best, and they may motivate the employees to perform better. Therefore, managers should align a reward system when implementing a change, for the employees to accept without resistance. On the other hand, workplace peer pressure can foster resistance to change. Human beings are social creatures, whether they are introverts or extroverts. If one team member is compelled to resist change, he or she can easily influence their friends to resist too. Colleagues who are in a particular group can also encourage each other to resist. Human beings have an intrinsic need to belong when they find a group that accepts them; they quickly follow the group requirements. When a manager is introducing change, he or she must be keen to identify the groups that resist the change. Addressing the group on the need for change can also lead to a successful change process.

Furthermore, mistrust can result in resistance to change in an organization. A meaningful change can never occur in a place where there is mistrust. Employees who do not trust the managers cannot easily give in to the change request, as they are not sure of the real intentions. When trust is present, the employees have faith in the manager, as they believe that he or she cannot mislead them. Some work environments are never healthy because the employees mistrust each other. Trust is vital, and managers should ensure that there is trust,for change to be successful. Unfortunately, employees can distrust the manager as a result of a bad experience. In such a case, the manager has no option but to work hard to rebuild the trust of the employees. Subsequently, employees can resist change if the manager failed to consult them before implementing the change (Cameron and Green, 2019). For an organization to be successful, it needs to ensure that they involve the employees on significant decisions. People who are not part of the change process in most cases resist due to fear. When employees are engaged in the change process, they end up feeling valued, and this improves their reception of change. Finally, employees at time resist change due to the fear of changing routine. Most people are attached to their daily routines to the extent that they hate anything that may cause its change. A routine can be a comfort zone, and that is why most people love them. The routines secure the employees, and they end up valuing them. Therefore when evaluating the reason for resistance, managers should consider the issue of fear for changing routine.

Strategies for Dealing with Employee Resistance

management should come up with ways of overcoming opposition to overcome resistance effectively. Opposition will always be present regardless of the effort an organization place on change management. To overcome the resistance, a company should identify the people opposed to the change and engage them effectively. By engaging the resisters, they get to know their concerns and address them efficiently. The employees could be resisting the change as a result of foreseeing a challenge. If at all there is a problem with the change, the managers will rectify it immediately. Moreover, allowing the employee’s input reduces the chances of resistance as they feel that they are part of the change (Sarayreh, Khudair and  Barakat, 2013). Involving them also makes them think that the leaders care about them; hence they end up embracing the change. An organization that is truthful and straightforward finds an easy time when implementing change, as they are not likely to face any opposition. Nevertheless, explaining to the employees why the change is essential encourages collaboration. Employees resist when they mistrust the reason for the change. Allowing them to be part of the change also gives them the chance to advocate for the change themselves, as they are aware of its value. The employee’s ideas and suggestions can also be helpful as they help in improving the change. Innovations and improvements are irresistible, and hence organizations should come up with strategies of implementing them without resistance. Therefore, the change process should be planned well and executed effectively for it to be successful.

Ultimately, an organization should engage employees effectively to deal with resistance to change. A success tactic for managers should be listening to the employees. Managers should never get tired of hearing the protesting employees at any point. Listening to the employee’s issues itself can soften their hearts, and they may end up complying with the change (Cameron and Green, 2019). Employees are the ones who complete the tasks in an organization, and they also interact with the customers. For an organization to be successful, it should value its employees by listening to their concerns. Further, probing the employees on the change progress is also essential. A manager needs to engage the employees by asking questions as to whether the change is working well for them. Inquiring if the employees have any concerns can also help in improving the change process. When listening to the employee’s question, the managers can identify the areas that require to be rectified in the change. Elsewhere, managers should understand that employees can never be the same when dealing with resistance. The fact that one employee is resisting change while others are accepting does not mean that he or she is not loyal. Taking the resistant employees and guiding them towards acceptance may be a useful tactic at this point. Showing the employees that you care about their concerns, they may make them reconsider their position and support the change.

Moreover, managers should never implement change at once as it may lead to resistance. For a transition to be successful, it must be implemented in stages. The change process is never easy, as some people may resist. To prevent resistance, the manager should conduct effective change management. The first step in effective change management is preparing the employees for change. In this step, the management explains why change is essential, and the work areas that the change will affect. While preparing for the change, the company must have an open mind while thinking about its future at the same time. In the second step, the leaders explain more about the change, and they clarify to the employees the long-term benefit of adopting the change (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015). Openness is critical in this step as it helps in encouraging the employees to accept the change. Thirdly, the managers acknowledge that there will be a loss as the employees will have to change their daily routine. Employees must be encouraged that fear is a natural thing, and the best way to overcome it is by facing it. Leaders should never underestimate the loss because it can interfere with the performance. Nevertheless, supporting loss helps in building commitment and in promoting the success of a company. If the leaders admit that there will be a loss of familiar ways and support the employees, disruptions and confusion may not occur during the change process.

The fourth step of implementing change is the creation of a change climate. In the change process, early adopters exist, and they feel happy about the change. The managers should identify the exited people and use them as influencers who may help other people to transition successfully. Building momentum and excitement is vital as it helps other employees in perceiving the benefits of the change. Subsequently, the fifth step involves training the employees on the new procedure. From the training, the leaders can quickly know how the employees will receive the change. The training is essential, and it helps the employees in doing away with the old trends and adopting the new strategies. While teaching the new skills, the trainers must be patient for every employee to capture the new skills. Finally, the sixth step involves the implementation and measuring of the change. During execution, the leaders must provide an active support structure to help the employees in understanding the new skill (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015). If the change involves restructuring and redundancy, counseling support can be beneficial. After implementation, the managers can evaluate if the change process is successful. The change success is if the employees capture the taught skills effectively and their reaction towards the change. Assessing if the change is successful can also determine if it is sufficient enough. At this step, the managers also take note of any resistance and deal with it effectively.

Elsewhere, communicating change effectively can help in dealing with resistance. The best way to communicate change is by explaining to the employees whatever is going on. Several platforms can be used to demonstrate change; however, face-to-face communication is the best. Face to face works better because the employees receive the news in a supported environment where their fears can be addressed adequately (Cameron and Green, 2019). When discussing the change, the leaders must address the expectation, the vision, and the goals of the change process. Moreover, two-way communication when both the employer and employee communicate is the best method. Employee’s views are essential as they feel involved and part of the change process. Communication is vital, but effective communication is best. To ensure that the communication process is successful, the leaders can seek verbal acknowledgment from the employees (Doppler and Lauterburg, 2019). Assuming that the employees are okay with the changes is wrong, and leaders must seek their approval to confirm if they are okay. Additionally, communication should clearly explain why the change is needed in an organization. People who understand the need for change cannot easily resist change. The leaders must also ask the staff to join them in the change process, as it requires a team effort for a transition to be successful. Addressing the change anxiety is also essential, and it can help in dealing with resistance.

On the other hand, managing resistance to change formally is vital. Proactive ways of mitigating change resistance should be part of any change management process. Incorporating the steps for dealing with resistance is essential, as resistance must be part of any change process. There exist three phases of addressing opposition. The first phase is the preparation for change. When preparing for change, the management must come up with effective ways of dealing with resistance, as suggested by Sarayreh, Khudair, and Barakat (2013). Resistance is human nature, and hence they must plan on the ways of dealing with the anticipated problem. The particular tactics for managing the issue must be present, and it is inevitable. The second phase involves managing change effectively. Resistance management must be part of this phase, and it must provide the specific steps for managing resistance. The plans for change management must also address the individual reception of the change. When managing resistance, the leaders should not be judgmental, and they should handle the employees professionally without demeaning them. Finally, the third phase addresses the reinforcement of the change. When reinforcing a change, management collects feedback to evaluate how the employees are complying and adapting to the changes. Assessing employee’s feedback helps in identifying and managing the available gaps. Identification and effective dealing with resistance happens at this point.

Nonetheless, identifying the cause of resistance can help in its management. The leaders should be keen enough for them to realize the root cause of the resistance. Concentrating mealy on the symptoms of resistance cannot help in dealing with the challenge. The overt symptoms of the problem may include things like complaining, failing to attend meetings, failure to produce the requested materials and information, and refusal to adapt to the change. The symptoms may be evident, but focusing on them can result in failure. Ultimately, for effective resistance management, the leaders must identify the exact cause of the issue (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015). A person’s behavior is not essential when managing resistance; however, the reason for resistance is vital as it can facilitate the management process. Consequently, the reasons for resistance can be severe, and some employees can fall into depression if the management fails to address them. When forming the change management procedure, the management should discuss how they plan to deal with every anticipated challenge. Additionally, the employees can be having fears that they may not wish to discuss with the management. In such a case, the management may have a difficult time addressing the resistance. Some incompetent employees could be afraid that their incompetence can be discovered once a change is initiated. Therefore, managers should be keen enough to address the exact cause of resistance for employees to adapt to change successfully.


In conclusion, resistance to change is a common phenomenon in organizational change. Resistance is normal in human beings, and managers should deal with the problem without being judgmental. However, dealing with employees who resist change from the beginning, even before understanding more about it, is a challenge. Managers need to handle such resistant employees carefully for change management to be successful. Moreover, some employees can have legitimate reasons for resisting change, while others may resist just because their fellows are doing so. The best way to avoid employee resistance is by involving them in the change process. Involved employees feel like they are part of the change, and hence they cannot easily resist. Elsewhere, formally addressing resistance and understanding the main reason behind the resistance can help in effective change management. Leaders who concentrate barely on the outward expression of resistance in most cases fail to address the issue successfully. Therefore, leaders should be keen enough to address the root cause of resistance for change to be effective.


Alvesson, M., & Sveningsson, S. (2015). Changing organizational culture: Cultural change work in progress. Routledge.

Cameron, E., & Green, M. (2019). Making sense of change management: A complete guide to the models, tools, and techniques of organizational change. Kogan Page Publishers.

Sarayreh, B. H., Khudair, H., & Barakat, E. A. (2013). Comparative study: The Kurt Lewin of change management. International Journal of Computer and Information Technology2(4), 626-629

Doppelt, B. (2017). Leading change toward sustainability: A change-management guide for business, government, and civil society. Routledge.

Doppler, K., & Lauterburg, C. (2019). Change management: den Unternehmenswandel gestalten. Campus Verlag.

Hayes, J. (2018). The theory and practice of change management. Palgrave.

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