Reasons for Resisting Change in the Workplace

Employees resist change when it's not in their best interests.

Employees resist change when it's not in their best interests.

Change is good and exciting, right? Wrong, not when it means stepping into new territory without any guarantees of how things are going to turn out. Even if your workplace is pretty boring or even if it leans toward dysfunctional, at least you know what to expect each day and have developed your own coping mechanisms, so why would you want to take a chance on fixing things? Resistance may be futile however, no matter what reasons or excuses you can come up with.

Fear of the Unknown

You don’t want to boldly go where no one has gone before. Fear of the unknown is one of the main reasons people resist change at work. At least with a broken clock, you know it’s going to be right twice a day. When you can’t predict the outcome of the changes with absolute certainty, which is rare, you’re going to face resistance. People worry about how their responsibilities are going to be affected. They worry their skills may not be up to par, or that the changes might even make them obsolete. It’s the not knowing what’s going to happen that is the biggest fear. You can help to allay those fears by giving folks as much information as you can – as soon as you know it.

Happy with Status Quo

When employees are happy with the ways things are, they’re going to be resistant to change. Whether they like the lack of supervision they have or they really like the perks and bonuses that come with the job, when you announce changes are coming, it’s those things that workers are going to think of first. They worry they’re going to lose the good stuff and be left with the hard work and no perks. When employees are happy with the status quo and satisfied with their jobs, they have no reason to go along with big changes. You’ve got to sell them on the benefits of the changes to get them on board.

Layoffs Might Happen

When changes are announced, one of the first things employees ask is, “Are there going to be lay-offs?” Workers often suspect that the changes are being implemented to reduce the workforce and the company’s costs. They become suspicious of management, especially if the changes seem to be coming out of nowhere and employees didn’t even know there was a need for change. When changes are sprung unexpectedly, you’re going to face resistance, defensiveness and wariness. Be proactive at this time and assure those employees who aren’t losing their jobs that they are safe. If you do plan some layoffs, make them quickly to quell any further speculation.

Suspect It Isn’t Real

After being told over and over that real change is going to happen in the company – only to have things revert back to the same old, same old within a month, employees stop believing true change is coming. They also lose trust in management and anything they hear from the boss. They see your efforts at change as token words to keep the big bosses happy, when they know nothing is really changing. Next time you tell the staff that changes are coming, don’t be surprised if they don’t even bother resisting, they might just be laughing too hard to put up much of a fight. To counter the skepticism, find one person you can convince that the changes are good and that they are coming, and let her spread the word among her peers.

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About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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