Organizational Change: Resistance

Rita Fae Aulbach-Emira, AS, COC, CPC, CDEO, CPB, CPMA, CRC, CEMC, CPCD, CRHC, CCA, CMCS, CBCS, CEPFG, Certified Melanoma Educator

            . With technology and other rapid advances across all industries, change may come faster and more often than ever. Organizations of all types and sizes are constantly changing and evolving to meet the demands of consumers and employees. Organizational changes happen for various reasons and through various methods ranging from implementing new technologies to completely redesigning departments or work teams. Employees, and even managers, tend to resist change even when changes can be beneficial to the employee and to the organization in which they work. But why are employees so quick to resist changes within an organization? Is there anything leadership can do make employees feel better or more trusting about changes within the organization? Leadership should be aware that employees often resist change, the reasons why employees resist changes, and how to remedy resistance before making the final decision on change implementation.

Change Within

            There are numerous reasons for changes to happen within any organization. Changes can be a series of very small changes implemented over time, or they can be large and happen very quickly. Many changes occur in an effort to improve business operations in order for a company to have continued success. Companies strive to achieve higher profit margins, reduced costs, increased worker efficiency, improved customer experiences, and to have a competitive advantage in the markets participated in (Quast, 2012; Smith, 2019). Implementing changes to technologies or work equipment, altering or remodeling employee training methods, or even revamping business strategies, projects, or departments are a few of the methods organizations use which cause change within (Smith, 2019). The needs of organizations are constantly evolving due to advancements in all industries, staying ahead of the competition, and the way organizations must keep up with the needs of the clients and employees alike (Lawrence, 1969).


            Employees are human, and it is human nature to resist change because while change is usually for the best, human nature causes people to be pessimistic about change, seeing the glass half-empty rather than half-full. Employees wonder what impact organizational changes will have on their roles within the organization. A lot of resistance is due to fearing the unknown or feelings of mistrust in organizational leadership. Employees might wonder if job responsibilities will become too complicated or even if they will be laid off or replaced due to the changes. Organizational change usually means the way employees perform duties or who the employees work with will be undergoing change, which in turn, could require additional training and drastic changes to a worker’s day-to-day activities or even social interactions an employee normally participates in. For example, a new technology, like Zoom, may eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings and instead require employees to use video conferencing software. Employees can also feel that change is being forced on them, without communication from leadership or the opportunity to give an opinion, taking even more control over a role out of their hands (Smith, 2019; Quast, 2012). When employees and even managers resist change, organizational costs could increase, and time to finish projects could slow down rather than having less costs and becoming more efficient due to the pushback being caused by the resistance.

Leadership During Change

            How can organizational leadership decrease employee resistance to change or prevent it altogether? Organizational leaders should first learn about the reasons why employees resist change in order to better understand how to prevent resistance. Once this is accomplished, another point to consider is clear and honest communication of the changes to come. It is important to look at the reasons change is needed, who will be impacted, and how those changes will impact employees. Letting employees know in advance that changes are coming can reduce the fear employees have of the unknown (Quast, 2012). Clear communication of reasons for changes, what changes are being made, and giving an estimate of when the changes will occur can boost employee trust in leadership and in the changes to come. It can also be helpful to offer employees the opportunity for input on changes needed, how to implement the changes, and to provide feedback during each stage of the changes (Quast, 2012).


            Organizational changes are inevitable and will always be a part of being employed. Industries are continuously changing to keep up with the times to meet the needs of the consumers being served and the workers which are employed. Departments shift, projects change, technology and equipment are upgraded, and costs change constantly (Lawrence, 1969; Smith, 2020). In order to ease the minds of employees with mistrust in leadership or who fear what is unknown, it is important for organizational leadership to understand what organizational change means. Leadership is responsible for learning why employees resist change and to clearly and effectively communicate changes to employees. It is a good idea to allow employee input and feedback on changes. Effectively managing changes within an organization can prevent or reduce employee resistance, while potentially making the changes more effective for the organization.

Author: Rita Fae Aulbach-Emira, A.S., C.O.C., C.P.C., C.D.E.O., C.P.B., C.P.M.A., C.R.C., C.E.M.C., C.P.C.D., C.R.H.C., C.C.A., C.M.C.S., C.B.C.S., C.E.P.F.G., Certified Melanoma Educator

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Lawrence, P. R. (1969 January). How to deal with resistance to change. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/1969/01/how-to-deal-with-resistance-to-change (June 6, 2020).

Quast, L. (2012 November 26). Overcome the 5 main reasons people resist change. Retrieved from Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2012/11/26/overcome-the-5-main-reasons-people-resist-change/#4e8336613efd (June 6, 2020).

Smith, C. (2019 September 23). 20 reasons for organizational change management. Retrieved from https://change.walkme.com/reasons-for-organizational-change/ (June 6, 2020).

Tanner, R. (2020 April 7). Organization change: 8 reasons why people resist change. Retrieved from https://managementisajourney.com/organizational-change-8-reasons-why-people-resist-change/ (June 6, 2020).

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