Sources of Resistance to Organizational Change

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Most of the sources of resistance to organizational change can be traced to three areas: a poor understanding of why change is needed, few people modeling change and a fear of the personal impact change might bring. The sources of resistance to organizational change when magnified can make it very difficult for an organization to move forward.

No Agreement

  • There may be no common agreement that there is a problem, making it difficult to justify significant change. If it is not clear to employees and managers that the problem is riskier than making a change, there will be resistance. Employees may continue to resist a necessary change if they don't understand or believe the details of how the change will solve the problem, even if they agree the problem is significant.

Poor Momentum

  • Sometimes resistance to a change comes from the perception that nobody else is adopting the change. Leaders who do not adopt the change themselves, fail to enforce the change among staff or mistakenly believe their teams are exempt from the change can short circuit the process. When this happens, groups of employees and sometimes their leaders start to doubt the necessity for the change, believing the old way of doing things is fine.

Individual Impact

  • The individual impact of an organizational change often leads to more resistance than other sources. Employees may not follow through with change if they feel that their job is threatened or will disappear, or that they will be of less value to the organization. Some may be concerned about their personal ability to adjust. Implementing new technologies can cause some to doubt their ability to adjust accordingly.

Change Fatigue

  • Resistance to change, either overtly or covertly, may occur if too many changes are made too closely and affect the same group of employees. Organizations that change the responsibilities or roles of employees may find resistance from employees who doubt that these changes will last or have the intended impact espoused by management. Change fatigue becomes apparent as employees sense that the new way of doing things won't last.

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