Reasons for Resisting Change

Peter Vajda has a great post over on Slow Leadership titled “Why People Resist Change” that is well worth the time to read.

Peter argues that the reasons people resist change is that they are ‘told’ to change….rather than being ‘asked’ to change.   He writes:

What’s the most common process for introducing change in our organizations? We hold a meeting. Tell people why the change is necessary and give our reasons for the change, the expected benefits and tell them be prepared to do it our way. Then, we become angry and frustrated as all heck when we experience their subsequent resistance and lack of buy-in. Usually, little or no change happens in the long run.

Now…in most instances, the management team have done their homework and really believe that the changes that they trying to implement are the best things for the organization…but they do a poor job of engaging their employees in creating these changes.  This ‘telling’ approach makes employees feel as if management doesn’t really care about them.  Again, Peter writes:

If those in charge take a ‘telling’ approach towards change, in essence they are saying to employees: “We really don’t appreciate you; we really don’t want to include you. You have to change, like it or not.” That’s the perception and we all know perception is reality — especially in workplace situations when change is the issue.

Think about the last time you were told that change was coming.  Were you in complete agreement that it was the right change and it was necessary?   If you are like most people, you might agree that change needs to occur but you aren’t sure that ‘this’ change is necessary or that the implementation of the change is quite right.

What would happen if you were involved from day one in the decision making process?  Peter suggests that:

If you would take the time — and be honest and sincere in your efforts — you could ask people for ideas and be assured they will come up with most of the solutions required for them to do their best, both for themselves and for the good of their team and organization…

….What would it be like if leaders engaged employees in the change process by inviting them to join in the decision-making and problem-solving leading up to the change?

Most organizations can’t involve every single employee in change initiatives but a good cross-section of employees would be better than nothing.  Ask employees what they think about the current environment and what needs to change…most times, they’ll come up with some excellent ideas for change that may have been missed by management alone.   Lastly,  engaging employees in creating change initiatives will normally bring about the proper sense of urgency and ownership required for the change(s) to be successful.

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Antonette Alberta sense of urgency by John P Kotter - Book Review | Aligning Technology, Strategy, People & ProjectsEric D. BrownAndrew Meyerpeter vajda Recent comment authors
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Andrew Meyer
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Eric, interestingly I put in a blog very similar to this this morning, though my perspective is a bit different. http://alignmentinquiries.blogspot.com/2008/07/why-is-value-so-difficult-to-measure-in.html My entry is a part of several entries I have about the difficulties PMI is having in trying to quantify value in project management. A part of it is that many project involve change and there are many long standing reasons why people in companies don’t like to change. I’m still learning the ways of the blogging world, but I may take the other side to what Peter Vajda said. Involving people in the discussion of change doesn’t mean… Read more »

peter vajda
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I agree with your thesis, Andy. Perhaps the following might be of help, or might not. Managers cannot control an employee’s response to change. Employees choose how they will react or respond and life is about choices. Yes, employees are and should be concerned with a “what’s in it for me” perspective. However, for me, what’s underneath their “what’s in it for me” perspective, and how that affects their input into the decision-making process is what matters. Until and unless they come to the table and are asked to voice their concerns, their personal context for wanting or refusing change,… Read more »

Eric D. Brown
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@ Andy – Thanks for the comment…good stuff.

You have a good point….people may bring their own agenda into the meetings and change initiatives but I think if the change process is managed well, these personal agendas can be managed well.

Thanks for stopping by. You’ve got a great blog going….keep up the good work.

Eric D. Brown
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Peter – Thanks for stopping by.

Great thoughts on how to manage personal agendas when dealing with change initiatives.

Andrew Meyer
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Peter and Eric, Thanks for you’re clarification. I must preface my response by saying that my thoughts were formed operating in large and political organizations. As such, they are experiential not academic. I like your break down of the three groups with a “what’s in it for me” perspective. Those being people: 1. Willing and open. 2. Hesitant and reluctant. 3. Adamantly opposed. I might phrase them a slightly different way. 1. Those not invested in the current structures who stand to benefit from the opportunities presented by change. 2. Those who are apathetic or busy with other things, but… Read more »

Eric D. Brown
Guest

Andrew – Great stuff. Thanks for the info on your webinar…I would love to join.

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