The process of change is not all that easy – especially where the project owners are intending to achieve full benefit realisation.
And if the project is “oversold” – then there are sure to be disappointments down the road.
The change curve is an interesting graphic aimed to show that the change work is a journey with some possible difficult stages along the way.
In fact the curve can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy – in that people assume it is going to happen, then do little/no change management – and voila! the result is not good.
However, if effective change management is delivered, then the trough can be minor and the speed towards stakeholders ownership and end - users adoption can be much greater.
Resistance to change - 2
There will of course be resistance to most change – and the resistance will be greater when the disruption caused by a project is greater.
And so, if people are losing jobs for example, then the resistance will be great. If the change is about preparing the entreprise for a new future, then there should be less resistance.
It is as well to really understand what drives resistance to change – and where change management and training can add value. These can be explored on the following pages.
Change curve does happen in most projects – however the “trough” does not have to be dramatic and the shift to a positive position needs to happen rapidly The world famous change curve
26+ reasons why employees resist changes
The following is the culmination of a thorough literature review on resistance to change in organizations. The results are presented in a brief format according to "a reason", or the "causing factor".
First, reasons that are related to the "human situation", called "situational variables", are described.
Following these approximately 23 variables, are eight factors related to personality and other psychological variables inherent in some social situations.
In the first grouping, the reasons are listed in order of the frequency in which they appeared in the literature.
The more they appeared in the literature review, the higher they appear on this list.
Resistance due to situational variables
Resistance due to threat of loss of position powe r.
Resistance due to fear of the unknown . ("What will happen to me? I think it's safer the way it is., that's what other people say. ")
Resistance due to habit & inertia - ("What we've always done is the way it should be".)
Resistance due to altered social relationships - (Workers are often friendly, forming teams, and may react with a feeling of loss, to a disruption of their work relationships.)
Resistance due to disruption of organizational cultural reality . Current organizational culture may undermine any new learning intended in the change effort.
Resistance due to previous exposure to failed change efforts - ("Oh, it's just another program that won't do anything, why bother with it?)
Resistance due to perceived personal loss and gains from the change . Simply put, the employee believes s/he stands to lose more than they will gain
Resistance due to peer group pressure . A common phenomenon in Unions also, sometimes employees or managers are informally punished or sanctioned by their peers for going along with a change that the others are not in favour of.
Resistance due to organizational climate- Closely related to culture, a paradox can emerge wherein a climate unfavourable to change but truly in need, will nevertheless resist the change anyway, given an overall "climate" in the work place.
Resistance due to forced change and lack of participation in the change- When one is active in the process of change, their sense of loss of control is minimized and they can credit themselves positively for helping create the change, and be invested in the success of the change.
When the purpose of the change is not made clear, resistance due to poor communication may develop. Those affected by change must know why a change is being made and how they will be affected. Rumours develop around inadequately explained changes. It is also easier for those already resisting the change to concoct or spread disinformation, especially when there are no concrete facts circulated to counter rumours and disinformation.
Resistance due to limited resources- When resources are limited and organizational members fear that their resources are threatened and will become more limited, resistance to change is likely.Following this, unproductive rivalry and dysfunctional politics can develop between divisions, departments or work groups that have a new set of unequal resources.
Resistance due to vested interests- Change can alter "strategic contingencies" within an organization, making a new group more important to future success to the organization and thus threatening the old dominant coalition.
Resistance due to threat to self-image- when change threatens the current self image of individuals or groups.
Resistance due to personal appeals- may occur when the reason given for change appears to be motivated by a personal need of the change agent or the manager/executive who is initiating the change, rather than motivation based on the best interests of the organization and its employees.
Resistance due to implied fault- Rather than face the implication of being at fault for present organizational difficulties, those in charge may deny the need for change rather than be held accountable for its need.
Resistance due to sunken costs- When a large investment has been made in ongoing operating programs and /or technologies, those who were initially responsible for bringing about those programs or are more reluctant to abandon them .
Briefly, other noted causes of resistance to change are- loss of rewards and privileges, change which occurs too rapidly for the organization to adapt, prejudice towards the change agent, lack of skills required to change, and when employees are pleased with the way things are and there is an honest difference in opinion with the change agent or source wanting to impose the change.
Resistance due to personality variables
Cognitive dissonance: when one is confronted with information that goes against their beliefs of what is true, a state of cognitive dissonance ("mental discomfort") is evoked.
To reduce the state of "dissonance", or discomfort, three alternatives are available:
change one's opinion so that it corresponds more closely to the other's own opinion,
change the other's opinion so that it corresponds more closely to one's own opinion, or
attribute the difference in opinions/beliefs to the characteristics, motives and experiences of the other person- or in other words, "discount" the information such that it is irrelevant
Fear of the unknown- can also be more prevalent to some than others, hence making it more of a personality trait than a situational variable. In addition, groups of people with such fears often find comfort in sharing their fears with each other, thus making the change process more difficult as now it has become a "group" fear: "It's not just me! Everybody thinks it's a bad idea...“
Venturesome/risk-taking/need for change- some individuals are at the forefront of constructive changes. They tend to have experienced more change in their personal lives than others, who drift behind and tend to be the last to change. The tendency to have positive experiences contribute to one's effectiveness in any area is termed "self-efficacy" and can apply to the uncertainty of organizational change in human systems as well as learning technical knowledge.
Faith in people/concern for others- confidence, faith, and concern towards the virtuousness and well being of one's fellow man can be a strong determinant in acceptance of change. The opposite is also true, when an employee is cynical or sceptical of people's nature and motives in general, their openness to change often diminishes.
Conservatism- conservative individuals tend to resist change. This factor has been measured and demonstrated in numerous studies and stands to reason on its own. Conservative individuals who group together, as was referred to above regarding the trait of "fear of the unknown", can also create great impasse for change.
Dogmatism- is a style of thinking that is closed-minded and in part, an attitude towards authority. Highly dogmatic individuals are accepting or rejecting of individuals based on whether the other person is in agreement or disagreement with the dogmatic thinker.
Admiration for status- those who value status highly are less open to change when the change threatens to impinge negatively on their self-perceived status.
Machiavellianism- is the tendency to believe that others are manipulatable in interpersonal situations. This personality characteristic prevents honest communication of one's intentions from being given. In a change situation, honest communication of intent, and trust, are paramount over-riding factors of success in a change process.