People Resisting Change: Six tips to reduce change resistance that leaders and managers tell us work

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Last week I wrote about leaders and managers being more aware of what people in their organisation experience when they go through change.  Interestingly, I had a number of people contact me asking about what to do when it becomes evident that people are ‘digging in’ and resisting the changes being implemented.

The first thing to do is consider this from a cause and effect perspective. The resistance to the proposed change is the effect. Therefore the question requiring an answer is: what are the causes for resistance which we, as leaders and managers, may be experiencing from our people?

There can be multiple causes. Here are the main ones our team come across regularly:

  • The case for change lacks authenticity – people are not convinced of the need for change;
  • Lack of leadership commitment;
  • Lack of trust in the change process, those leading and managing the change, or both;
  • The wrong leaders are leading the change;
  • Poor communication;
  • Poor planning, development and execution;
  • People are not adequately prepared or trained for the change;
  • Absence of contingency planning;
  • Change readiness is not assessed properly. The pressure for change is too great or insufficient.

Even with the causes identified the question remains: what can be done about it? Here are our  six tips to assist leaders and managers overcome change resistance:

  1. First Listen
    • Take people’s ideas and concerns around change seriously. Remember they might be right.
    • Identify where there may be gaps in knowledge, skill and experience, and develop plans to close the gaps.
  2. Have Empathy
    • Take time out to walk in their shoes to better understand people’s perspectives.
  3. Clear and frequent communication
    • Be confident and optimistic.
    • Realise that communicating the plans/approaches only once is not enough.
    • Provide only the facts as you know them; be careful not to over ‘spin’ the change.
    • Be honest and transparent.
  4. Provide the right kind of support
    • Create a safe environment.
    • Ensure all people impacted by the change receive appropriate education and training.
    • Give people adequate time to acquire and practice new skills.
  5. Monitor progress, admit mistakes and be willing to adjust.
  6. Celebrate and acknowledge change successes.

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, sums it up well with “people don’t resist change, people resist being changed” – which is why the majority of people and their leaders find change challenging.

Change is a constant and we will continue to experience change in one form or another. We hope these six tips will give you a head start with managing change resistance.


Vivente Australia Enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.

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