Change doesn’t happen if you don’t understand first why people resist change. Yet, many great change initiatives fail because leaders struggle to understand the causes of internal resistance and its impact on implementation. Here’s the good news. Resistance can be dealt with if you know what causes it.
Why resistance is just a step in the journeyAs leaders, we first need to understand that resistance is normal. Sometimes, we believe that people resist because they don’t understand the need for change – “they don’t get it”. This is why leaders should understand first why people resist. Let’s see how change works. The change curve model by Kubler-Ross identifies 6 phases during change:
- Neutral – People don’t know much about the change you want to drive. So they sit and wait until they know more
- Initial Excitement – People have a high-level idea about the change and they’re positive and optimistic about the change
- Denial – People start to “feel” the change and the potential impact on their job or career. They don’t participate much in the program as well as in meetings
- Resistance – People don’t accept the change. They challenge every action, they speak badly about the change with others, and they don’t take action
- Valley of Despair – People are frustrated, sad, and stressed about the change. They freeze and are concerned about what is going to happen to them
- Exploration – People start to feel a bit more confident about the change and see some initial results that look positive and promising
- Commitment – People are now optimistic, committed to implementing change, and fully on board.
Four reasons why people resist changePeople resist change for very different reasons. In my experience, there are four main reasons why people resist: 1.Personality Personality types have a critical role during change. Personality is who we are, often a result of our past, our success or failure, our risk attitude, etc. Normally, we come across four types of personalities:
- The anxious employee – Often stressed about the change, even before starting
- The enthusiastic employee – Always positive and happy about a new change
- The command and control employee – Doesn’t like to be told what to do
- The reluctant employee – Says no to change no matter what
- Positive people who believe in a positive outcome
- Negative people who believe in a negative outcome
- Positive people but reluctant to change in this specific situation
- Negative people who accept change for compliance, not because they believe in it
Key mistakes leaders do during changeExecuting change poorly is often the reason why 70% of change initiatives fail. Here’s why:
- Poor communication. Leaders don’t communicate consistently and clearly the vision for change internally. As a result, employees get confused and disengaged
- Lack of clear roles and responsibilities. People feel lost, frustrated, and stressed. This is particularly evident during medium-large change projects
- No psychological safety in the organization. In this scenario, people tend to follow the initiative through compliance, and not through participation. They don’t speak up or share even constructive criticism
- Lack of feedback loop. Feedback is necessary during execution. Every step you take must be discussed with key stakeholders. You need a lot of back and forth to test and try what works and what doesn’t.