Dr. Steven Rogelberg is Chancellor’s Professor at UNC Charlotte and former president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
It’s time to reflect on the past year and look forward to what comes next … but not everybody is ready for change in 2023. Even when a new solution, approach, or idea is terrific, enacting change can lead to resistance from others. By better understanding why others might resist, we can more thoughtfully roll out changes.
The great work of Dr. Rosabeth Kanter provides insight into resistance forces and how to address them. Here are the main psychological obstacles to change, along with the best path forward for each.
Resistance force: It’s hard for them to give up control.
Path forward: Look for opportunities to involve this person in decisions that affect them.
Resistance force: They fear the unknown.
Path forward: When routines change, it can be disorienting. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Resistance force: They’re overwhelmed.
Path forward: Signal change in advance and seek input. Change what must be changed, but thoughtfully pick your battles. Don’t just change something for the sake of changing it.
Resistance force: They created the status quo and feel hurt.
Path forward: Celebrate what can be honored from the past — and explain why this change is needed to pave the way for the future.
Resistance force: Self-doubt over thriving in a new environment.
Path forward: Help level up skills, provide mentors, and implement other support systems to help them ease into change.
Resistance force: Change is a lot of work.
Path forward: Recognize the effort required. Seek to eliminate unnecessary tasks. Provide additional perks to validate workers and make things easier.
Resistance force: They remember previous (failed) changes.
Path forward: Longtime employees might feel particularly skeptical of altering the playbook. Acknowledge their old wounds and lay out how these changes will be different given lessons learned.