Overcoming resistance to change

Overcoming resistance to change
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Methods and techniques

Overcoming resistance to change, involves convincing of employees which are the greatest obstacle to the implementation of the changes in organization. Such employees are acting according to so called "rule of defiance" by Karol Adamiecki formulated in conjunction with the principle of inertia or defiance by Henry Louis Le Châtelier and Karl Ferdinand Braun (regarding chemical and physical phenomena). This rule says that the personnel involved in the improvement generally oppose any change of conditions and methods of work.

Resistance may occur in the open or covert form, immediately or over time. There are following sources of resistance: the uncertainty caused by concerns about workplace, doubt as to the suitability of qualifications and competence, fear of the unknown, the reluctance of entering into new areas, the risk of personal interests, reducing power or spheres of influence, a sense of loss (for example, the current status). Identifying sources of resistance is useful for taking action to reduce its power. Often people not prepared to change resign from work, causing increased employee turnover rate.

Sources of resistance to change may be also: ignorance of the causes, the effects of uncertainty, reluctance to lose the current position.

Overcoming resistance to change is often achieved through: involvement of employees in the process of improving the organization (TQM, working groups, etc.), extensive information to employees about ongoing changes, their causes and the benefits for them and for the company, the support of management and consistency in the implementation of changes.

Table 1. Tools for overcoming resistance to change

Approach When to use Advantages Disadvantages
Education and communication Lack of information or inaccurate information Convinced staff can assist in the implementation of change Time-consuming, especially if number of employees is large
Participation and involvement Significant number of potentially reluctant employees Employees who participate are willing to engage in the changes. Time-consuming, especially if participation leads to improper design of the project
Facilitation and support Employees having trouble adjusting to the new situation This approach does allow for the correct solution to problems of adaptability of workers Time-consuming, large investment, likelihood of failure
Manipulation and co-optation Other approaches do not work Speed and low cost Leads to great difficulties, if employees recognize that managers manipulate them
Hidden and open coercion Pressure on the speed of change, considerable power of leaders Quickly overcome any resistance Risks associated with anger of employees.


Author: Krzysztof Wozniak