“Let’s keep things the way they are” says the psychological resister. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But those who resist change disrupt change efforts. In this post we look at recognising psychological resistance to change.
This post is part of a mini-series on managing resistance to change. Please see our related posts
In a nutshell, psychological resistance to change is the behaviour of anyone who is attached to the status quo and has low-level of confidence towards change.
Psychological Resistance to Change
Let’s be very clear,can undermine the effectiveness of your message about change and should be addressed early in the change initiative.
People are unwilling to try new things because they may be less successful than the previous ones. They also see the cost of changing greater than the benefits and probably have a low-level of tolerance for uncertainty.
Therefore it is very important for the change leader to overcome such resistance and to promote sustainable and positive behaviours among the groups affected by change.
Recognising the Signs of Psychological Resistance to Change
Here are some pointers to recognising the signs of psychological resistance to change
- Preference to keep things the way they are
- A low-level of tolerance for ambiguity
- General mistrust and a loss of confidence in the change leader and management, “They don’t know what they’re doing!”
- A focus on the cost of change and not the benefits
- Denial, “It’s not going to happen.”
- Concerns about
- Low morale and the problems this brings
People don’t resist change. They resist being changed! – Peter Senge
Turning around low morale and the behaviour associated with psychological resistance to change is not straightforward. It’s far better to manage the situation by providing the right information to the right people at the right time using the right method. In doing so people are informed and trust is gained.
10 Steps to Manage Psychological Resistance to Change
Here are 10 steps to manage psychological resistance to change
- Prepare your vision and communicate this from the outset as this will help people to detach from the things as they are—show people where you are going!
- Communicate the right information to the right people at the right time using appropriate channels—if you commit to monthly briefings honour this commitment
- Be open about the impact of change on employees—be prepared to discuss their concerns and answer questions
- Show commitment to fairness when addressing staff concerns and questions—if changes to people’s personal circumstances are likely let this be known
- Increase the perceived risk of keeping things the same—be very clear why change is needed
- Let your staff help shape the future state – don’t make every decision behind closed doors
- Your people are key to delivering the change—make use of role models to inspire staff
- Set stretch targets and performance expectations as part of the initiative—setting targets drives improvement and motivates staff
- Reward desired behaviours—it’s your role to make employees feel important and appreciated so take every opportunity to praise staff
- Create ceremonies for early successes—offer rewards to recognise outstanding one-off contributions and sustained efforts
Successful project implementation relies on overcoming resistance to change. Psychological resistance to change is rooted in fear and involving employees in the problem solving process will help develop feelings of ownership and increase their willingness to accept change.
Have Your Say
How do you handle psychological resistance to change? Does employee involvement work? Please join the discussion.
Creative Commons image courtesy Javier Garcia.