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6 Reasons Why People Resist Change

Rosabeth Moss Kantor, Professor of Management at Harvard Business School stated once "Change is disturbing when it is done to us, exhilarating when it is done by us." It is within the context of this statement that we can review why people resist the concept of change.

Change is a necessary part of an organization. Any public agency, not-for-profit organization, or private sector organization must face change daily to survive in today's competitive world. How do we deal with change and communicate it, will make the difference between success and failure. Change can be difficult because of its scope, fear of the unknown, rapid pace, previous personal experience, access to information, and leadership vision.

The scope of change refers to the ripple effect superimposed on other aspects of an individual life while experiencing a change. A minor alteration in one aspect of a work environment can set a series of events in motion which have unintended consequences (e.g., a simple change in working hours could affect childcare arrangements, or after work school schedules0 causing a decrease in morale.)

The impact of change can trigger a "fear of the unknown" reaction. If organizations do not clearly communicate, what the plan is for implementing change the informal grapevine within the organization will provide answers to unfounded rumors. If organizations fail to consider the impact of change typical negative employee relations indicators will start to appear such as the excessive use of sick days, lack of productivity, or low morale.

The pace of change is significant. In the mid 1980's consultants like Dr. Louis E. Davis of the Quality of Working Life Center at the University of California at Los Angeles encouraged organizations to take 3 to 5 years to complete the redesign of an organization. Now management consultants like Robert Jacobs of 5 Oceans Consulting, recommends that leaders use real time strategic change to quickly drive cultural changes within an organization.

The personal experience factor is critical. This refers to both the positive and negative experiences employees bring with them at the point a change effort is started. Those with a positive experience in another organization could be a source of support by providing information that supports the process. On the other hand, a person with a negative experience in a change effort could be resistant, and have a negative impact on employees who might be neutral to the change effort.

The access to information on the subject of organization change seems endless in terms of volume, diversity, and reliability. John Naisbitt in his book Megatrends: The New Directions Transforming Our Lives states "The volume of technical information in the world doubles every 5 ½ years. It is no wonder that leadership and employees both may be overwhelmed by the information overload.

Leadership vision can demonstrate an understanding of the concept that people need to control and influence their destiny within the work environment. When change is needed leadership should start the implementation process by meeting with employees. Discuss what is known, what the anticipated change will encompass, and present a clear roadmap on how and when the change will occur. Open communication with all interested parties, sometimes called stakeholders, is essential to ensure that the change effort is on time and cost effective.

In conclusion, the key to overcoming resistance to change is to help employees cope with the scope of change, overcome the fear of the unknown, control the pace of change, tap into the previous personal experiences, provide adequate information, and clearly communicate the vision so people understand, accept, and support the change process.

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Copyright © 2007 - 2008 Fenstermaker & Associates Training and Consulting Service

Lee A. Fenstermaker III is the President of Fenstermaker & Associates Training & Consulting Service.  In 2000 he earned a Master of Arts degree from the University of Phoenix in Organizational Management.  "Our passion is to help maximize skills to achieve organizational goals.  We help you achieve your goals through high impact workshops, professional consulting, and event speaking services. 

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