Do you resist change? Do you know others who resist change?
Suppose you rock up to the office and see a letter on your desk. The letter states that you are getting a dedicated luxury cabin in two months. You will have a choice of working from an open space or cabin. How much will you resist this change?
How many of us resist change in salary, promotions, employee benefits?
The fact is that we accept such changes with delight!
Then, which type of changes do we resist?
We all resist perceived negative changes. So let us unfold this a little.
The change can be one of the following three types:
- Positive: We perceive the change will help us. It may improve our well-being, status, authority.
- Negative: We perceive the change will negatively affect us. For example, we may lose something; it can be a perceived threat, discomfort, uncertainty.
- Neutral: We do not care
So, we establish that we resist only the perceived negative changes.
Just hold on to this observation!
It is others who resist change
We have this misconception that it is always others who resist negative change. But, as managers of change, we never step into people’s shoes that are on the receiving end.
Consider a pretty common scenario of an ERP software rollout. There are two main groups, Managers and Staff.
In the Manager’s world, there are lengthy discussions on how to get staff to adopt change. There is an expected change in the company’s operating model. Staff will resist the change. It is a risk, and how we can manage it?
But, the same Manager’s group often resist learning new software too. So, they also do not like the change that affects them.
The fact is that, as humans, we have a general tendency to resist change. And it is not always a terrible thing either!
Look, the main problem is that we often give lip service to change management. A common assumption is that if someone resists change, it is a job of a Change Manager to resolve.
The fact is that we resist change for a reason. As managers of change, we must understand the underlying causes of change resistance.
Why we resist change? The root cause!
So, we now understand that we all have a natural tendency to resist negative change. But what is the root cause of this resistance?
Why do we prefer the status quo instead of embracing the change?
To understand this, look at the following diagram. It shows a generic viewpoint of employee and manager for an organisational change.
The left-hand side shows the employee’s viewpoint. You can see that employee is uncertain about few things (unknowns, job security). Further, the employee has concerns about new learnings due to the change.
The right-hand side shows the manager’s viewpoint. Like the employees’ group, the managers have their concerns about the change. Their problems relate to Decision making, Extra workload.
To conclude, the fact is that we all resist change. Our perception of given change can be different (positive, negative, neutral). It depends on our position in the whole schema of things—for example, our job role, culture, education and other dynamics.
So, we established that we all resist change, but what is the root cause of this resistance.
The root cause is our internal fear and anxiety. It is our instinct to be safe. If there is an expected change in our habitat, we experience fear and anxiety.
As managers of change, we must understand this natural phenomenon. We must note the symptoms and the root cause of change resistance.
So, in the next project, write down these symptoms. Notice why the business stakeholders say what they say. What are their underlying concerns, fear, and anxiety? Try to address the root cause, and people will support you in every step of your project!