Resistance to Change

Cite this article as:"Resistance to Change," in The Business Professor, updated April 24, 2020, last accessed October 20, 2020,

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What is Resistance to Change common in Organizations?

There are several responses to organizational change, as follows:

  • Active resistance – This is when individuals actively resist the change through acts intended to interrupt or disrupt change-related activities.
  • Passive resistance – This when individuals oppose change but may not be extremely or vocal or active in expressing their opposition. This level of resistance can still have an impact on employee morale, satisfaction, and performance.
  • Compliance – This is when individuals go along with the change without motivation or enthusiasm.
  • Enthusiastic support – This is where individuals active in support, assisting, and defending change. They generally actively encourage others toward change.

People generally resist change for the following reasons:

  • Disrupted Habits – Change necessarily disrupts habits and moves people into less comfortable positions – even if temporary.
  • Personality – Some individuals have personality traits that make them naturally resistant to change. Individuals who are more Open to New Experience and those who have a higher risk tolerance are generally accepting of change. Those who are or do not are more likely to be resistant.
  • Feelings of Uncertainty – Change can cause people to be less certain. This can cause individuals to experience stress and feel a lack of control.
  • Fear of Failure – People often resist change under the perception that it will make their jobs more difficult, harm their performance, or cause them to fail in their tasks or objectives.
  • Perceived Loss of Power – People may fear that change will cause them to lose stature, importance, or power within the organization.

It is important to note that individuals may experience any of the above emotions or perceptions but not actively resist change. The reason is based on the following concepts:

  • Personal Impact of Change – The greater the potential impact of a change, the more likely it is that an individual will have strong opinions or undertake an effort in support of or in resistance to the change.
  • Prevalence of Change – If change is common in the organization, it is likely that an individual’s fears or apprehensions are mitigated. Also, a change that is temporary is likely to face less resistance.

Lastly, it is important to note that resistance to change can be good and bad. It is bad if it sniffles the organization’s progress in completing objectives or reaching goals. It is good if it causes the change process to be carried out more effectively. For example, resistance may cause those bringing about change to think more deeply about their decisions and the process for effectuating them.

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