Resistance to Change

Although organizations initiate changes in order to adjust to the changes in their environments but people sometimes resist them. Therefore, managers need to recognize the manifestations of resistance both in themselves and in others, if they want to be more effective in supporting change.

Individual Resistance to Change

Some common reasons for individual resistance to change within organisations include the following:

  • Selective perception: People’s own interpretation of stimuli presents a unique picture or image of the ‘real’ world and can result in selective perception. This can lead to a biased view of a particular situation, which fits most comfortably into a person’s own perception of reality, and can cause resistance to change.
  • Habit: People tend to respond to situations in an established and accustomed manner. Habits may serve as a means of comfort and security, and as a guide for easy decision-making. Proposed changes to habits, especially if the habits are well established and require little effort, may well be resisted.
  • Inconvenience or loss of freedom: If the change is seen as likely to prove inconvenient, make life more difficult, reduce freedom of action or result in increased control, there will be resistance.
  • Economic implications: People are likely to resist change which is perceived as reducing either directly or indirectly their pay or other rewards, requiring an increase in work for the same level of pay or acting as a threat to their job security. People tend to have established patterns of working and a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
  • Security in the past: There is a tendency for some people to find a sense of security in the past. In times of frustration or difficulty, or when faced with new or unfamiliar ideas or methods, people may reflect on the past. There is a wish to retain old and comfortable ways.
  • Fear of the unknown: Changes which confront people with the unknown tend to cause anxiety or fear. Many major changes in a work organisation present a degree of uncertainty. For instance a person may resist promotion because of uncertainty over changes in responsibilities or the increased social demands of the higher position.

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