But, we like things the way they are…

In today’s extremely competitive environment continuous change is a given. Long gone are the days when employees could continue doing the same job the same way they always have. Employees’ today are required to adapt constantly to incorporate change into their organisations. Change is going to be a permanent fixture in most organisations. Change can cause a high level of anxiety for many employees that can be detrimental to both the performance of the individual and the organisation.

It is important for individuals to realise that this change is happening in most workplaces.  It has become the norm in today’s working world.  This has come about as a direct result of the enormous changes including globalisation, hyper-competition and the technology revolution; and the pace of change is accelerating. Charles Darwin noted that it is not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent – it is the one most able to adapt.

One of the biggest traps is the failure of organisational leaders to resist the temptation to rush through the planning process to get to the ‘action stage’. A great portion of change effort fails because of a lack of understanding of what the process of change involves.  Of course when the manager lacks an appreciation of the complexity of the process, it is predictable that the emphasis will be on ‘action’ or ‘results’.

But why is it so common that individual resist change?

Resistance to change can usually be caused by 5 reasons (detailed bellow) or a combination of a few.

  • Selective Information Processing: Employees may process the information about change selectively to keep their perceptions intact.  They may not see the need for change because they see and hear what they want to.
  • Fear of the unknown:  Employees have a sense of security doing things the way ‘they have always been done.  They know what is currently expected from them.  Negativity about the changes can result from the fear of the unknown.
  • Economic factors: Employee’s may fear that they are not safe in their jobs or that the change processes will result in lower pay or a change in conditions.  Resistance to change will occur unless management can reassure staff that there will be no negative impact on pay and conditions as a result of the change.  Often there can be with downsizing but management need to put out the message that these workers will be fairly compensated.
  • Security: Many employees feel a high need for security and as a result are likely to resist change efforts because it makes them feel unsafe.
  • Habit: People are creatures of habit and feel uncomfortable with the threat of a change in routine.  Our natural tendency is to resist this threat to our normal way of doing things.

Figure 1.1 (Robbins, S.P., et al (1998) Organisational Behaviour, Prentice Hall: Sydney)

The world is continually evolving and improving and with that comes change. Change is good and should not be resisted. If the change hasn’t been a success, at least it was an experience!