3 Types of Change Management Resistance & How to Combat Them

Aug 10, 2018 | Posted by Michael Campbell


Resistance is a natural reaction to change and as a Change Management Practitioner, you’re guaranteed to come face-to-face with employees resisting your organisational change initiatives.

The idea of having to move away from existing methods or processes can create a sense of uneasiness within the organisation. People have trouble developing a vision of what life will look like on the other side of a change so, they prefer to stick to what is familiar rather than taking a leap of faith into the unknown. 

Resistance can arise for different reasons and can come in various forms so knowing which type of resistance you're facing will help you assess the most effective way to combat the situation and encourage higher adoption rates. 

We've covered three different types of resistance to change and included ways you can use the change management techniques learned in our Change Practitioner Programme to prevent employee resistance disabling change initiative.  

If you’re looking to further your knowledge of change management and equip yourself with the additional skills needed to begin applying change management processes to more complex projects and diffuse employee resistance, sign up for our upcoming Experienced Practitioner Programme.

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Political Resistance

Political resistance occurs when organisation members think that there's a chance they will lose something of value when the change is implemented. Even the smallest uncertainty can cause individuals to imagine stressful scenarios - such as losing their job - which can create resistance

If your change is happening as a result of a previous project not succeeding then it is likely you will come up against some political resistance as these employees may feel they are losing assertiveness within their work group. If you suggest a change that means employees feel they are taking a step into the unknown then it is likely that they will stay in their comfort zone and want things to stay the same.

How to combat this:

Change management aims to reduce any sense of uncertainty surrounding change. Changes that are communicated early and put into a language your employees can relate to will help build trust in your project. It's also important to position your change as a chance to gain something rather than focusing on a loss.

Click here to find out more about how our Experienced Practitioner Programme can equip you gain advanced skills to implement effective resistance management.

Ideological Resistance

Ideological resistance to change is firmly rooted in an employee's beliefs. These employees may believe that a new direction violates the fundamental values held by the organisation. They tend to feel nostalgic about the organisation and have memories around what was key to past successes, thinking that any change will be detrimental to the future success of the organisation. They simply just don’t want to change.

These resisters find it difficult to adapt to any change and are likely to react by attempting to delay the proposed change in any way possible or challenging the legitimacy of the change leader.

How to combat this:

It can be difficult to win these employees over unless you demonstrate that the change you are implementing is compatible with their beliefs. Under these circumstances, your strategy as a change practitioner is to gather more data, more facts to create a stronger case for change that is hard to argue against. 

Our upcoming Experienced Practitioner Programme covers advanced change management topics such as making the case for change management. Click here to find out more.

Social Resistance

You might experience social resistance within a tight-knit organisation. Managers may feel compelled to resist your proposed change if it means protecting their co-workers. If you're a senior executive or middle manager implementing change, your managers who report to you may will resist your change effort to protect their work groups. If your change effort threatens workplace social bonds, some of your team members may resist your change effort. 

Upsetting the status quo of the workplace can result in social resistance. If your change initiative has the potential to create an unbalance in group norms or values that are embedded within the organisation, it is very likely that you will face some social resistance. There may also be a ‘follow-the-leader’ mentality amongst employees so if employees find one influential co-worker is opposing the change, it's likely they will follow the same path so they don't stand out from the crowd. 

How to combat this:

Securing effective sponsorship from an employee who has influence over particular departments or other co-workers can significantly improve your efforts to implement your change initiative. 

Click here to find out more about how our Experienced Practitioner Programme can help you gain effective sponsorship for you change with sponsor and management engagement.