Individual and Organizational Sources of Resistance to Change

Individual sources of resistance towards a change exist in the basic human tenets or characteristics and are influenced by the differences in perception, personal background, needs or personality-related differences. It is important to understand those triggering factors or issues which refrain individuals from endorsing change or extending their support and cooperation towards any change initiatives at an organizational level.

Criticizing the individuals or the teams for not being supportive in the stages of transition or compelling them cannot be an effective solution for implementing change smoothly or in a hassle free manner.

The resistance towards change at an individual level can be due to various reasons:

  • How satisfied they are with the existing state of affairs

  • Whether they appreciate the overall end product of change and it’s outcome on them

  • How much practical or realistic the change is

  • What will be the possible cost change on the individual in terms of potential risks involved, pressure to develop new competencies and disruptions

The following factors explain why individuals may pose resistance towards change:

  • Habits: We individuals are influenced by our habits in our ways of working and accept or reject a change depending upon the effect which a change may have on the existing habits of the individuals. For example, change in the office location might be subjected to resistance from the individuals as this might compel them to change their existing life routine and create a lot of difficulties in adjustment or coping with the schedule. The individuals might have to drive a longer way for reaching their office, or start early from home for reaching their office in time, etc.

  • Lack of Acceptability or Tolerance for the Change: Some individuals endorse change and welcome a change initiative happily while few individuals fear the impact of change. Over a period of time change fatigue also builds up.

  • Fear of a Negative Impact Economically or on the Income: During the process of organizational restructuring or introduction of organization-wide change as a strategic move on the part of the management, several inhibitions, and fear rule the thought process of the individuals. Fear of possible loss of a job as a result of change or a change in their income structure or may be a change in their work hours could be one amongst the possible reasons.

  • Fear of the Unseen and Unknown Future: Individuals develop inertia towards the change due to the fear of unknown or uncertainties in the future. This can be tackled through effective communication with the participants of change and making people aware of the positives of change and the course of action which individuals are expected to follow to cope with the changing requirements successfully.

  • Fear of Losing Something Really Valuable: Any form of threat to personal security or financial security or threat to the health of the individuals may lead to fear of losing something precious as a result of the implementation of change.

  • Selective Processing of Information: It can be considered as a filtering process in which the individuals perceive or make judgments by gathering selective information which is greatly influenced by their personal background, attitude, personal biases or prejudices, etc. If an individual maintains a negative attitude towards any kind of change, then they are having a usual tendency of looking at the negativities associated with the change and involve all the positive aspects of it.

  • A Rigid Belief that change cannot bring about any facilitating change in the organization and it only involves the pain and threats to the individuals.

Now, we will look into the organizational factors which result in resistance to change.

  • Resistance Due to the Structural Rigidities or Limitations: Structural resistance is a characteristic feature of bureaucracies, which focus more on stability, control, set methodologies or routine.

  • Ignoring all the interconnected factors which require change or lack of clarity in understanding the ground realities.

  • Inertia from the Groups: Groups may resist change because just like individuals, groups equally follow set behavioural patterns, norms or culture and as a result of change the groups might have to change their existing ways of conduct or behaviour.

  • Possible threats to Power, Resources or Expertise can also result in resistance towards an organization level change. Any kind of devolution of power or transfer of resources from some agency or group to some other agency or a group will definitely lead to a feeling of fear or inertia towards a change initiative.

In the end, it can be concluded that any kind of change will surely involve heavy resistance at the individual as well as organizational level. But through effective communication during all stages and consulting, desirable outcomes can be ensured by breaking all the possible barriers or resistances towards a change. What is more important is identifying the main source of resistance and accordingly developing action plans for dealing with it.

Successful change in an organization will require strong commitment and involvement on the part of the top management, focused and an integrated approach, strong and a stable leadership, effective and open communication from the internal change agent for making people sensitive and more aware of the realities and the ultimate need for change.

For minimizing the resistance towards the change employee participation and involvement in the overall process plays a crucial role in building acceptability and seeking the cooperation of the employees towards the change. Hence proper planning, coordinated approach and complete involvement of all the stakeholders, play a decisive role in implementing strategic decisions and determining the success of change.


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Change Management