Resistance to change is something that can happen anywhere in life – from not approving the changes in your own home to having an issue with changes occurring in your workplace.

As a manager, understanding the resistance to change your employees feel when change happens will help you navigate and understand that resistance – and it will help you keep your business on the path to change without running into workplace issues.

Change is a normal part of life, and all people experience numerous changes throughout their lives. When it comes to changes at work or with your own business, these changes need to be implemented often to keep a company moving forward. In order to make changes work in your business, you want to have everyone on board.

Recognizing Resistance to Change in the Workplace

Most people feel some sort of resistance when it comes to changes. Depending on what the changes are, it's not always easy to move into new patterns.

The keys to effectively making changes, especially in the workplace begins with understanding that resistance is healthy and then finding ways to implement those changes in a way that is easy for everyone to be part of the initiative.

When you're making major changes in the workplace you need to know that at least some employees are going to have an issue with the changes – some people might even leave their position because they are unwilling to deal with the changes.

When you implement change properly, you can build a stronger team. By not dealing properly with resistance to change, however, your teams dislike of change can undermine your intentions.

Here are some common signs that employees are expressing a resistance to change:

  • They may not implement the changes set forth – Some employees may ignore the changes and keep doing things the old way.
  • They may speak out in various ways against the changes – Some employees will be direct and express that they are displeased with the changes while others will question different aspects of the change without being as direct.
  • You need to learn to listen – Even those that don't directly come out about their disagreement with changes, they will talk to other employees about it. Listen, pay attention, and see the signs even if they aren't vocal. When an employing, or even more than one employee, is expressing a resistance to change it won't always be immediately noticeable, but even the silent challenger can mess things up for your company.

You can expect at least some people under the roof of your business to not want change to happen. However, if you make sure everyone understands the importance and need for the changes you are making, you'll be able to ensure you have a strong team behind you to help put all the new things into action.

Why Are Employees Likely to Express a Resistance to Change?


One of the biggest reasons that employees express a resistance to change when faced with new things on the job is because it was introduced to them poorly. Poorly launched changes can affect how an employee is able to do their work. Here are some specifics:

  •  Involve Employees in Changes – If you want to avoid resistance to change, it helps to make sure that employees know the changes are coming and that they've been allowed to feel as though they have some kind of say in those changes. Have a meeting when you want to make changes and allow employees to interject their own feelings and ideas on what might help the business grow (employees that really care about their jobs often have many ideas about how to make their workplace better).
  • Consider Input from Employees – When employees feel like you've at least put some consideration into their opinion on the changes your business needs to make they are more likely to be OK with the changes that do happen. They understand better the importance of change and will know that your decisions weren't come to lightly.
  • Listen to Your Employees – Even when you have to make changes that aren't popular among the people working for you, listen to their feedback and show them understanding. It shows that you appreciate their input and it may open you up to making some different changes if what you've implemented doesn't do the job after a certain amount of time.

How to Better Introduce Changes

Insert Content Template or Symbol
accept changes

Resistance, to some extent, is good. It shows that your employees are paying attention.

If they are open about why the changes don't work for them, you may learn something important about the effect of changes on your employees. And those employees that are passionate about the business may be able to interject some ideas that you can use to alter the change or to better make changes in the future.

Here are some tips for better understanding your employees:

1. Implement a Suggestion Box

Whether or not you have changes to implement, having a suggestion box available in your business for employees to suggest changes is a must. Even small companies can benefit from giving employees a chance to share their ideas and complaints.

You need to let them know when it's time to make changes. By giving employees a chance to express their opinions in a less public way (you don't even have to enforce that people put their names on the suggestions).
Employees are more likely to be honest about how business changes affect them if they don't have to be pinpointed as the one that doesn't like the idea or the only one that does.

2. Schedule Regular Employee Meetings

Changes or not, it's useful for businesses to have regular employee meetings. Once a week or one a month, employee meetings help everyone get on the same page.

Employee meetings offer up a great time to discuss any future changes that are going to need to be implemented beforehand, giving employees a chance to understand the changes and get used to them before they're overcome by them.

If you need to implement changes that don't go along with your regularly scheduled meetings, schedule one specifically about it, with enough time for your employees to get used to the ideas you're presenting them with.

3. Make Use of Employee Email

When was the last time you actually emailed your employees? Memos are not a thing of the past.

Using emails to keep your employees up-to-date on the things going on with your business is a great way to avoid any issues with resistance to change. Letting your employees know about changes before you're even working on implementing them allows them time to prepare for changes.

4. Talk One-On-One

Businesses that have an open-door policy have happier employees. This is because the people that are working for you know that you are willing to listen to them and that you are going to make the time to hear them out.
It's especially important to give your employees some one-on-one time when you're working on implementing changes. Your employees may feel more comfortable talking with you in private about their concerns, and less likely to gossip about what they don't like about the changes.
What's the Worst That Can Happen?

When it comes to resistance to change, ignoring the employees that are resisting isn't going to help your business. When employees refuse to implement your changes, it can cause setbacks in your business – so it is important to deal with conflict head-on.

Whether your employees intentionally resist change, or they just don't understand how to implement the changes, it can threaten your business's ability to thrive and find success with those changes.

Since innovation is important in all industries, facing down resistance to change head-on and following the tips on how to better encourage change will help your company stay on track.

Final Thoughts on Resistance to Change

Remember – employees are an integral part of your business, and they are part of what will lead you to success.

When it comes to implementing change, remember that resistance to change is less likely to happen when you are allowing your employees some say and ensuring that they understand the changes and know how to make them happen smoothly.

Take the time to make sure that they understand what these changes will do for them and for the business overall.