Why do people resist change in organizations?

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You may have heard the news , Toyota has added itself to the 60 businesses since July 2012 that have or will soon relocate their business operations to Texas. With change in mind and in order to be an effective leader it is important to understand why people resist change even if it is for the greater good of the company.

Resistance to change is a common phenomenon for individuals and organizations (Yukl, 2006). Efforts to implement change in an organization are more likely to be successful if a leader understands the reasons for resistance to change. Connor (1995) points to several important reasons why people resist major changes in organizations, please note these are not mutually exclusive.

People resist change due to… 

1. Lack of trust: Distrust can magnify the effect of other sources of resistance.

2. Belief that change is unnecessary: Resistance is more likely if the current way of doing things has been successful in the past and there is no clear evidence of serious problems that require a major change.

3. Belief that change is not feasible: Even when a problems are acknowledged, a proposed change may be resisted because it seems unlikely to succeed.

4. Economic threats: It may be resented by people who suffer personal loss of income, benefits, or job security. This is especially relevant when  the change involves replacing people with technology or improving processes to make them more efficient.

5. Relative high costs: Change usually involves some kind of cost, this may be higher than the benefit. It is important for leaders to systematically conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

6. Fear of personal failure: People who lack self-confidence will be reluctant to trade procedures they have mastered for new ones that may prove too difficult to master.

7. Loss of status and power: People responsible for activities that will be cut back or eliminate will lose status and power, making them more likely to oppose a change.

8. Threat of values and ideals: Any change that appears to be inconsistent with strong values and ideals will be resisted.

9. Resentment of interference: Unless people acknowledge the need for change and perceive that they have a choice in determining how to change, they will resist it.

Resistance to change is not merely the result of ignorance or inflexibility, it is a natural reaction by people who want to protect their self-interests and sense of self. Rather then seeing resistance as just another obstacle to batter down or circumvent, as a leader it is helpful to view it as energy that can be redirected to improve change (Jick, 1993; Maurer, 1996; Yukl, 2006).

 

References:

Connor, D. R. (1995). Managing at the speed of change: How resilient managers succeed and prosper where others fail. New York: Villard Books.

Jick, T. D. (1993). Implementing change. Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin.

Maurer, R. (1996). Beyond the wall of resistance: Unconventional strategies that build support for change. Austin, TX: Bard Books.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

 

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