The Ugly Truth About Why People Naturally Resist Change. (Hint: They Don’t!)

Stop thinking that people naturally resist change. They don’t!

Over the years, a common question that I’ve been asked by middle and senior level managers is how to handle resistance to change that comes from other managers in their organizations. Many times as these managers raise the question, they will also repeat a common false belief about change that people naturally resist change. (Unfortunately, I see many consultants and leadership coaches still passing on this flawed advice in their articles and coaching services.)

The truth is that human beings do not naturally resist change. We accept changes to our lives all of the time, especially when we like the change that others present to us. We will change IF we believe the change will be beneficial to us. Look at it this way: Would you resist accepting a million dollar winning from a lottery sweepstakes because it will bring too much change to your life?

People change when they believe it is in their best interests to do so. Click To Tweet

The problem with change is that just because you believe (and may even know) that it will be beneficial for someone else does not mean the other party shares your perspective. He or she may see the change that you want to make as being far from beneficial to him or her.

So, what can you do?

As a leader in your organization, you are going to face instances where others resist your efforts to make change. Don’t take it personally!

At some point in your leadership career, someone in your organization is going to resist your change effort. You should expect it to occur. It’s one of the many organizational realities that come with being in management.

As you encounter resistance, it’s important to understand the complexity of change that I’ve been discussing in this article, however. (Otherwise, you won’t be able to help move people from resisting you to supporting you.)

When people resist your efforts to make change, take a more neutral perspective as you attempt to understand their motivation for resisting you. Accept that their resistance to change comes because they see some aspect of what you want to do as not being in their best interests. While they could be mistaken in this belief, accept that their resistance to what you want to do makes perfect sense to them.

To counter their belief that the change you want to make is not in their best interest, you can assess the common reasons why people resist change and then respond appropriately.

The common reasons why people in organizations believe a change is not in their best interests include the following:

– Loss of status or job security in the organization

– Non-reinforcing reward systems

– Surprise and fear of the unknown

– Peer pressure

– Climate of mistrust

– Organizational politics

– Fear of failure

– Lack of tact or poor timing

Here’s three things that you can do when you respond to others to gain more cooperation from them for your change effort:

  1. Spend quality time in two way communication with your  team members to understand their perspective about the change effort you are proposing.
  2. Explain clearly to them why your change effort is beneficial to them as a group and as individuals.
  3. Give them a role in helping you to implement the change effort.
Gain team member support for your change effort by giving them a role in implementing it. Click To Tweet

If you take these simple steps, you’ll have a better chance of moving others from resisting you to supporting you.

Finally, here’s some final advice that I’ll give you.

How you communicate the need for change is critical!

When you make significant change, if all that you ever communicate to your team members is do-it-my-way-or-hit-the-highway, you’ll harm your ability to gain their support for your change effort. Instead, you may find that you have created even more resistance to the change that you want to implement.

In addition to keeping their job, explain the other benefits that your team members will gain by supporting your change effort.

For example:

  • Will they gain new knowledge or skills?
  • Will they be better able to meet customer needs?
  • Will it be easier for them to do their work?

As you communicate the need for change, it’s best to focus on communicating these other benefits and tone down your threat language. If you do, you’ll have a greater chance of getting your team members to want to change for themselves.

As you communicate the need for change, keep in mind that no one likes to be threatened. Click To Tweet

The main point that I want you to take from my article is to get rid of the myth about why people resist change. Don’t manage your team under the false belief that they are naturally going to resist any change that you propose to them because that’s just what people do.

Your team members will not automatically resist you because it is their human nature to do so. If they resist you, it will be because they do not see much benefit in what you are proposing to do.

Being effective as a change leader requires helping others both to see and accept the benefits of your change efforts. While it’s true that sometimes you have to use force to bring change about, it’s also true that it’s much easier to implement lasting change when people really want what you are proposing.

Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

This article is accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge.
Content is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional advice in business, management, legal, or human resource matters.

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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