Recognising Resistance to Change

In this post we introduce the four main forms of resistance to change and offer tips for managing those who resist your change efforts. But first we take a brief look at stakeholder management.

Every creative person, and I think probably every other person, faces resistance when they are trying to create something good… The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be. – Donald Miller

This post is part of a mini-series and introduces 4 ways of recognising and managing resistance to change. Please see our related posts

Stakeholder Management

Stakeholders come in different sizes! Some are influential, some disinterested and others vocal. Some will come along on the journey whilst others will come along kicking and screaming!

A 2 by 2 grid showing stakeholder support and power.

The Stakeholder Influence Map

But forget all this and consider just two traits in your stakeholders

  • Are they supportive?
  • What power do they wield?

Now do this quick exercise. List all the stakeholders you can think of and rank them according to their power—positional power, expertise, connections, knowledge—and their willingness to support you.

Finally, add them to your stakeholder influence map.

Resistance to Change

When you understand your stakeholders you can start to do one of two things: either convince those with most power to support you or work to neutralise those who resist what you are trying to change.

Learning to recognise the types of resistance to change is the first step toward clarifying your communication strategy and dealing with resistance to change.

I have a resistance to change in things that I feel comfortable with and that I’m used to. – Dennis Quaid

To mitigate the effects of those who resist change you first need to recognise the four main forms of resistance to change

  1. Cognitive – based on their own information and experience people believe that the original diagnosis and action plan for change are wrong.
  2. Ideological – people believe the proposed change breaks the fundamental values that give the organisation its identity.
  3. Psychological – people are unwilling to try new things because they may be less successful than the earlier ones. They also see the cost of changing greater than the benefits and probably have a low-level of tolerance for uncertainty.
  4. Power-Driven – people perceive that the proposed change will lead to a loss of power, autonomy and self-control. That is, they fear reduced status and autonomy.

Recognising Resistance to Change

In the following posts we show you how to recognise and manage the 4 types of resistance to change

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Have Your Say

How do you identify stakeholders? Can change leaders increase the likelihood of resistance to change through poor planning, lack of support or by ignoring employee needs? Please join the discussion.

Images: Murtada al Mousawy.

Last updated 17 May, 2014 5 CommentsShare the knowledge …


  1. says

    I come across people unwilling to change in all walks of life. People become comfortable with the current processes and procedures and it is often a challenging part of being a Project Management to persuade people to change.

    I have found that being a good communicator and having all of the facts to back up your reasons are the best way of trying to change peoples ways of thinking.

    • says

      Hello Paul, Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Communication is an essential skill when dealing with change. And this also includes effective listening skills. As ever, Martin


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