Why Do We Resist Change?

Team Effectiveness

In your organisation, do people know what they like, and like what they know?

In your organisation, do people know what they like, and like what they know?

If so, they’re not alone. In this blog, we’re looking at what lies behind our resistance to change. Why do we get “stuck” – and what can you do about it?

You’re a leader in HR, so we hardly need tell you that companies are all about people.

And, that for many reasons to do with background, culture and upbringing, despite being one people, everyone is different. They bring a wide range of qualities to your business; each member of staff thinks, acts and behaves distinctly. Yet, there’s one thread that runs through us like the letters in a stick of Brighton rock:

We really don’t like change.

More of the same, please

As humans, without complete buy-in to a perceived upheaval (and we’ll touch on this later), when it’s on the horizon, we almost start to grieve for what could be lost.

Likewise, fear rears its head, and it can happen in both our personal and professional lives. At work, in particular, employees prefer their routine, their standing in an organisation, and the knowledge that they’re good at what they do. Change even makes us nervous about our job security.

We’re not criticising this. Here at FiveRivers Consulting, we relate to and recognise that fear of replacing one set of processes for another, taking on a different job role, or moving to another office. It’s authentic, and needs to be taken seriously.

But – change is what we do.

Comfort zone support

Our role is not only to help streamline procedures and technology, it’s also to enable your resources to operate more productively and efficiently.

What we mean is, through the adoption of systems that better support your HR function, to help free up your employees’ time to focus on tasks that add value. Rather than the repetitive, time-consuming, lower-level tasks that suck up their energy and talents.

Yet, we’re aware that at every stage of the HR transformation process, employees will appreciate having you with them on the journey. Engagement and agreement to revolutions don’t just happen. So, we aim to be the bridge between function and the very human side of Human Resources.

Why do we need change?

In brief, because it’s inevitable.


In the 21st century, our working environment demands transformation. Developments in technology and product development, as well as market globalisation push onto organisations the need for a new way of doing things.  

In HR in particular, it’s easy to rely on legacy systems – or on very poor systems – to help manage the “people part” of your business. With inadequate technology, your company could be under performing, and losing ground to your competition.

For growth, and sometimes even survival, change is an imperative. It’s business as usual.

What exactly is change?

It could mean numerous things.

A re-structuring, a series of redundancies, a change in leadership, mergers and acquisitions, as well as an implementation and adoption of new processes, systems and data.

Why do we resist change?

Again, the reasons underlying opposition to change can vary:

A lack of control. Decisions are being made for me. I’m being asked to do something without my agreement.

Uncertainty. What does this change mean for me? How is it going to affect how I work? If I do this, what does the future look like?

Shock. I was not expecting this. No one told me. Why didn’t I know about it?

Too much. I’ve been home-schooling my children, my partner’s just been made redundant, my Mum is not well. And now you’re presenting me with this? This isn’t OK. I’m “full”.

Self-confidence issues. I’m not good enough to take on more responsibility. I don’t have the skills to work at a higher level.

Losing face. Surely, this is looking like a demotion?

Frustration. Don’t you think I’ve already got enough to do? I’m not taking on any more work.

A ripple effect. If this happens, what will happen to that? And how will that other thing be affected?

Our Advice

In our opinion, the above thoughts and responses are perfectly okay. They’re normal.

Nobody said this was going to be easy. Nevertheless, your role in leadership is vitally important here. Now is the time to know that you will be pushing up against people’s feelings first and foremost. And, that the thoughts going through their heads are genuine, and real.

Empathy, and effective listening skills are your secret weapon.

And, communication at every stage, as well as a clear explanation of why change is happening. Showing that you hear them, and that you’re acknowledging their concerns could turn you into an HR super-hero. That leader who’s full of compassion. The leader who collaborates and asks for input

But, bear this in mind:

Resistance to change can be a good thing.

Why? Because it shows that your employees care about their roles, and the organisation as a whole. In fact, that they care a great deal. They’re looking to protect their working environment.

Although it may look counter-intuitive, and a path of least resistance, we think that if nobody cares and just accepts everything, you’re looking at a series of red flags waving enthusiastically in your general direction.

So, it’s not all bad.

Successful Change Management

Ultimately, having people go through the change together, as opposed to having it thrust upon them will empower them to understand not only why it’s happening, but also what it means to them.

Are you ready to help your staff be a part of the transition? To help them, to a greater extent, to co-author their own destiny? Engagement and collaboration are fundamental to FiveRivers Consulting’s approach, and it’s something we’d be very happy to help you with.

With the right mindset, you can ask the people involved in organisational change to come with you on the journey – which, after all, starts with a single step.

Thank you!
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