Managing Resistance to Change

As many of you already know, one of our main areas of interest at HC is helping organisations navigate through times of change. We are especially interested in measuring change readiness, employee engagement and turnover drivers during times of change.

While researching some of the latest literature on the area of change readiness recently I came across a practical articles that is a must read for any manager leading a team through a period of change. The good thing about this particular article was that it translated a number of key research findings into clear practical implications for managers.


What is resistance to change?

Resistance to change generally refers to when employees have negative thoughts, feelings or behaviors towards change initiatives in the workplace (Erwin and Garmin, 2010). Individuals who are resistant to change will often fail to actively support initiatives, discourage subordinates from supporting initiatives and may at times even attempt to actively undermine or sabotage change initiatives. It can obviously be a major source of frustration and has led to the failure of many organisational change initiatives.


Why are people resistant to change?

Research shows that resistance to change can come in a number of different forms. Sometimes resistance can be entirely rationale and conscious based on the known consequences of that change for an individual or their friends. Other times resistance can be more emotional, based on a feeling of fear or uncertainty. There are those of us that just don’t like change, irrespective of what the specific change is.

Of course resistance to change is a particularly complex issue and new research is being published regularly on the issue. However, Erwin and Garmin’s article (referenced below) is a particularly worthwhile read for those change agents or managers who are looking for a simple practical guide on managing this tricky issue.


So how do we manage it?

Erwin and Garmin suggest a range of managerial practices under the following headings:

  • Plan for resistance
  • Provide additional support and training
  • Gain support and help (from other employees who are open to change)
  • Address individual’s concerns about change
  • Communicate with your employees
  • Ensure understanding of the change
  • Examine your policies and procedures
  • Allow opportunities for participation in the change process
  • Develop confidence and trust
  • Develop quality manager-employee relationships

Of course there is far more detail outlined under each of these headings in their article and to help digest it quickly, we have attached a free downloadable checklist which summarises their recommendations. To access this, please click here.

Do you require assistance managing a complex change? Maybe you’re confident of managing an upcoming change but would just like some assistance measuring change readiness, resistance to change or employee engagement? If you’re a manager or change agent that fits either of these descriptions why not drop us a line to discuss your options. Alternatively, if you’re academically interested in this area then please do not hesitate to let us know and we can direct you towards some of the latest, cutting-edge research in the area.


For further reading:

Erwin, D.G., & Garmin, A. N. (2010). Resistance to organizational change: linking research and practice. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 31(1), 39-56.

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