Amity Institute Of Training & Development

The only constant in life is change. Why do people continue to resist it

I always wondered why we never have two-moment similar in our lives? Why there is always some difference or change in our two experiences of the same object? Why in our lives we have never lived two identically same days? Why our emotions are always in constant change? It has been said that change is the only real constant. The whole universe is in the constant rhythm of change. The flora and fauna around us in the constant change of growth and decay. The clouds are changing their patterns now and then, the cells in or body are in constant change, the topology of the earth is being changed with by natural and man-made calamities, our moods keeps on changing due to controllable and uncontrollable variables. It appears to me and hopefully, you would also agree that the entire cosmos - macrocosm and microcosm are together in a rhythm of constant change.

Most of us don't take too kindly to change especially when it is thrust upon us. We have many terms to describe resistance: pushback, not buying in, criticism, foot-dragging, and so on. We may also perceive resistance as a broad spectrum of behaviours that we don’t like—from an innocent question to a roll of the eyes to overt sabotage. Resistance to change manifests itself in many ways, from foot-dragging and inertia to petty sabotage to outright rebellions. People react to change in many different ways. Some may respond with fear while others may respond with denial. This resistance to change can be better handled if we knew the reasons why. The best way for people who are initiating the change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategize around them.

Change is always difficult to make, be it individual change or organizational change. Resistance to change can slow implementation, degrade benefits and in some cases cripple the entire project or the work that you are involved in. Most of the organizations have lost their identity and have become history due to the sheer resistance to change. Resisting change is like we are trying to stop the never-ending waves of the ocean with your bended knees. But can the waves be stopped, No!

Facing change today is a lot like surfing. Just like waves, change never stops. No two waves are exactly alike, but there are patterns. Waves form, roll, peak and break. Often, the difference between catching the wave and missing it completely—a fate worse than a wipe-out—is how well you understand the characteristics of that particular wave as it forms. Like change, waves can feel pretty scary. Finding yourself on the wrong side of a wave is no fun. Getting on the right side of that same wave, however, is incredible—exhilarating, enlivening and empowering. For organisations, if one harness the wave the right way, change can become a source of competitive advantage—energizing, stimulating and even fun.

John Seely Brown, the former chief scientist of Xerox Corporation and director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), has shown that the frequency of change and the degree of interdependence we experience today are both new. Previously, periods of dramatic change—such as the introduction of the steam engine, the telegraph or even cars—were followed by periods of relative stability. According to Brown’s work, the periods of stability we’d grown accustomed to were roughly 50–70 years long. In the last 20 years or so, however, new technologies have upended and destabilized that model. Today there are more ways the world can change, and, because we are increasingly interconnected, that change can spread faster.

No matter the change we experience, how we embrace that change will forever impact how we can live with the change. The impact may be good or us or not so good for us, we don’t know and that makes the change so difficult. The change also sometimes brings with it a force which compels us to let go. It compels us to let go of the attachment to familiar habits, practices, places and people which makes it more difficult. Lets, together look into the reasons as to why we continue to resist change at workplace and life in general.

Resistance # 1: The most difficult is to let it go!

We all have our set and pet notions about ourselves, others and the whole wide world. Change shakes up those notions. Sometimes the force is so overwhelming that it tosses the very notion of ourselves in our own eyes. Change comes like a tornado and twirls our so-called notions and uproots them and tosses it around. It leaves behind a trail of emotional outburst and confusion about ourselves and the way the world appeared before it struck. The sense of chaos and the fear of unknown makes us hold on to the memories and leads us to the state of denial. Holding on to the memories doesn’t fix anything. Replaying the past over and over again doesn’t change it, and wishing things were different doesn’t make it so. Deciding to hold on to the past will hold us back from creating a strong sense of self — a self that isn’t defined by our past, but rather by who we want to be. Oddly enough, painful feelings can be comfortable, especially if they’re all we know. We may not know who we are without that pain. This makes it impossible for us to let go.

How to deal with it?

Change hinders with independence and can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory or control of themselves. It’s not just political, as in who has the power. Our sense of self-determination is often the first things to go when faced with a potential change coming from someone else. Effective managers or leaders leave room for those affected by the change to make choices. They invite others into the planning, giving them ownership. This helps the team member to be in control of themselves. The same strategy can be applied in other aspects of life as well.

Resistance # 2: Insecurities

Change scares people. Individuals tend to find security in traditional approaches to life and situations. One of the major reasons for resistance to change is uncertainty about the impact of change. Will, I would be the one who would lose all? Will I be asked to leave if am not able to embrace the new diktat? Will I be needed to prove myself all over again? The fear of the unknown always has a major impact on the decisions of the individuals. New technology, new procedures, new systems can all create uncertainty and hence resistance to change. Not knowing exactly what the change would bring about makes the employees anxious and apprehensive about the change.

How to deal with it?

Change is meant to bring something different, but how different? We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic, but change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Too many differences can be distracting or confusing. Effective managers or leaders should try to minimize the number of unrelated differences introduced by a central change. Wherever possible keep things familiar. Remain focused on the important things; avoid change for the sake of change.

Change is a departure from the past. Those people associated with the last version — the one that didn’t work, or the one that’s being superseded — are likely to be defensive about it. When change involves a big shift of strategic direction, the people responsible for the previous direction dread the perception that they must have been wrong. Leaders can help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honouring and making it clear that the world has changed. That makes it easier to let go and move on.

Resistance # 3: Do I have the competence?

Can I do it? Change is resisted when it makes people feel stupid and make them appear less competent. This is a fear that is difficult for team members to admit openly. They might express scepticism about whether the new software version will work or whether going digital is an improvement, but down deep they are worried that their skills will be obsolete. But sometimes, change in organizations necessitates changes in skills, and some people will feel that they won’t be able to make the transition well. Therefore, the only way for them to try and survive is to kick against the change.

Some team members resist change because they are just hesitant to try new routines, so they express an unwillingness to learn anything new. They say things like, “I already know all that I need to know to do the job,” or “I am good at what I do why rock the boat.” Resisting employees who have already made up their minds that the change won’t work or who are reluctant to learn something new will impede the organization’s growth and adaptation to change.

How to deal with it?

Effective managers and leaders should over-invest in structural reassurance, providing abundant information, education, training, mentors, and support systems. A period of overlap, running two systems simultaneously, helps ease transitions. There is a common business saying that managers get what they reward. Organizational wide team members will resist change when they do not see anything in it for them in terms of rewards. Without clearly knowing “what’s there for me in it? “, there is no motivation for the team members to support the change over the long run. This often means that organizational reward systems must be altered to support the change that management wants to implement. The reward does not have to always be major or costly. Sometimes a small gesture or a pat on the back does wonders!

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By: Vaani Gandha


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