All change initiatives are bound to face resistance.  Resistance to change can be both good or bad.  If reasons of resistance to change are properly addressed, it will produce unmatched consensus leading to ultimate success of change idea. If these reasons are left unattended, then there is strong likelihood of failure and damaging impact on organizational performance. 

Why do people resist change? There are no fixed reasons. It can be as many as people working in an organization or there may be one single reason which causes all resistance. 

Knowing reasons of resistance to change is the first step towards addressing resistance. 

Based on the work of scholars and experience of practitioners, following are the top 11 reasons of resistance to change. 

Fear and Uncertainty

The root cause of resistance to change is fear of unknown. The uncertainty about change, new working methods, new role and responsibilities results into fear and confusion. And this holds people back to take on change. As it is said “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”. Majority of people want to play safe in their professional life and are reluctant to embark on new journey. So out of this fear people usually resist change. 

Lack of Conviction about Change 

People react to change if they think there is no need of change. This lack of conviction about change may be result of past experiences or poor communication or inconsistent behaviour of change leadership. Whatever the reasons are but conviction about change is absolutely necessary to implement change. 

Old Culture    

In organizations usually top management is replaced to implement desired change. But most of the mid management and employees stay there so does the old culture. The change of faces doesn’t ensure change in the culture. Resistance to change appears when new management lay out their plan of change which doesn’t fit in the old culture.  

People are not prepared for Change 

When change is announced suddenly and decisions about change are imposed on employees then they will naturally resist. People don’t embrace change when they are not prepared and when they have no enough time to think positively about new ideas. People need time to embrace change and adjust with new ways of working so whenever there is a surprise, they will resist it. 

Volume of Change 

People resist too much change. If big changes are not planned in a phased manner or goals are not prioritized then it will cause resistance from people. In this situation, people feel stretched,  overburdened and burnout due to scale of change. As a result of this they become demotivated and they would not welcome change. 

New Work Parallel to Old Work 

Many a times people are asked to adopt change without leaving old ways of working. This is contrary to spirit of change. People are expected to continue doing what they have been doing while they are asked to take on new roles. It is like fixing a car while driving it.  This causes uncomfortable situation and often employees are too stretched that they start resisting change. 

Faulty Change Design 

If there are inherent faults lines in design of change initiative then it is bound to produce resistance from employees and other stakeholders. There might be serious problems in strategic side of change or its financial assessment is based on wrong assumptions. So, if the entire idea of change doesn’t look feasible and people have strong reasons to oppose it then there will be a strong resistance to change. 

Behaviour of Leadership 

Behaviour of leadership also causes resistance.  Employees will strongly resit if leadership attitude, actions and values are unfair and unjustified. The onus of change in on leadership and they are the first who exhibit change through their work. One of the common mistakes leadership makes is the use of coercive measure to implement change. People usually fight back by resisting change. 

Feeling of being excluded 

People resist change because they feel being excluded. They think that they’ve lost control over their job and ways of working. This feeling of loss and exclusion always generate negative energy. Due to this lost ownership, people start resisting without thinking logical about change. 

Changed Relationships 

Organizations are made of people with diverse values, beliefs and personalities. And people have professional and personal relationships at workplace. Any organization change is perceived as threat to their relationships. Employees think that change in work means difference in relationship. Some people don’t want to work with new change leaders and this clash in personalities is also a big cause of resistance. 

Perception about capacity

Majority of employees have big concerns about their ability or capacity to adapt to change. They have doubts and disbeliefs about their competence. They think that they don’t have desired skills and knowledge and they can’t learn new skills either. They feel misfit in new schemes of things.  This perception of employees also leads to strong resistance to change. 

Take Home Points

  • Knowing reasons of resistance to change is the first step of overcoming resistance.
  • Fear of unknown is the root cause of resistance to change. 
  • Lack of conviction may result into resistance to change. 
  • Old culture of working is another reason of resistance to change. 
  • People don’t welcome change when they are unprepared for change.
  • Too much change is not accepted by people. 
  • Adopting change without leaving old working methods is always resisted. 
  • Faulty change design is not accepted by people.
  • People strongly react to bad behaviour of change leaders.
  • Feeling of being excluded is bound produce resistance. 
  • People perception of changed relationship make them resist change initiative. 
  • People have doubts and disbelief about their capacity so they show resistance to change.