How To Overcome Resistance To Change With Employees

How To Overcome Resistance To Change With Employees

Would you love to learn how to overcome resistance to change with employees?

It is a general saying that the only constant thing in the world is change.

However, with employees, it might be a different story altogether.

Change is always inevitable for every organization, especially innovative organizations committed to growing their business.

There might be some things you deem necessary to change in your business.

This might range from work processes to technology and sometimes even a redirection in business goals/mission.

However, one constant thing with changes in the workplace is that they are mostly done for good reasons.

You might be implementing certain changes to keep a competitive edge in the industry or get more customers.

Additionally, change in the workplace allows your business to be innovative and creative.

On the plus side for employees, change in the workplace can also help them in their personal development.

It can also help them develop their skills or learn new skills.

For some reason, however, individual employees might resist these changes in your organization for several reasons.

We will consider why employees might resist change more broadly in a moment and how to overcome it.

The important thing worthy of note is that you might be implementing changes in your business for the right motives.

However, not all your employees would be happy with some changes and might even resist them outrightly.

You, therefore, have the responsibility to manage and overcome this eventuality.

Meanwhile, let’s discover some basics of this concept.

Understanding the Concept of Employees’ Resistance to Change to Overcome

To change something means to replace that thing with something else or modify the state of something such that it is different from what it was before.

More so, the change could be for good or bad.

However, in this context, we are referring to positive changes.

On the other hand, to “resist” is a refusal to accept, embrace, or comply with something.

Putting these two words together, you would understand employees’ resistance to change as a refusal to accept a different situation or way of doing things.

When you employ your staff, there is an onboarding process.

This process, coupled with training sessions, aims to put your employees through how things are done in the organization.

After spending months or even years working with you, they become used to the processes and work culture.

In their subconscious, they begin to see that as the gold standard of how things should be around the workplace.

Even more, they see it as the status quo.

Therefore, when a change is necessitated at work, there might be initial resistance to this.

This resistance might take different forms, with some being subtle, while in some cases, some employees might be frontal about it.

The result of this could be a disruption of your work process or even conflict within the organization.

Ways Employees Might Express Resistance to Change 

As noted earlier, employees might express their displeasure and resistance towards change in different ways.

It’s good to note these signs to assist you in identifying resistance and working to correct it.

Some of the ways your employees might express their resistance to a change, which you have to overcome, are:

Low Morale 

This is one glaring sign of displeasure and resistance to change from employees that you’ll need to overcome.

You can tell that your employees have low morale or have lost passion for the job by how their engagement or efficiency drops.

This could be a sign that they are not in support of the effected change(s).

Murmurings and Complaints

Another sign that indicates resistance or failure to accept change in employees is when they complain or murmur.

This time, they do not just show their displeasure, but they voice it out.

They might murmur or lay their complaints at meetings where these changes are announced.

Also, they could voice out their displeasure amongst each other.

If care is not taken, it can degenerate into harmful gossip around the workplace and affect your work culture.


Employees can go as far as deliberately undermining their efforts or other colleagues to express their resistance to change.

They might reduce their input, purposely miss deadlines, or even procrastinate in carrying out essential duties.

They do this to prove that the implemented change(s) implemented doesn’t sit well with them.

When they also do not believe that the change was necessary nor beneficial, sabotage might come in.

Failure to Contribute

A decrease in employees’ engagement levels or contributions just after a change has been made reveals dissatisfaction and resistance.

These employees would go silent in important meetings about growth and development in the organization.

Furthermore, they might refuse to involve themselves in the conversations and claim they have nothing to contribute.

This is often the case, especially when they feel there were not involved in the decision-making process leading to the change.

Chances are they would conclude that the organization does not value their input, and as such, there is be active in the organization.

Staying Away from Work 

After implementing a change, you might also begin to notice an increased absenteeism rate from your employees.

You would notice punctual employees begin to stay away from work or come late.

They might start giving ridiculous excuses to stay away from work simply because they do not like the new way of doing things.

This could be because there are certain changes in the organization that they disapprove of.

Holding on to the “Old Ways” and Failing to Adjust 

Some employees would express their displeasure towards your change and resist it by not adopting the new process.

Regardless of the pressure and consequences of failure to adopt new changes, they will hold on passionately to the old ways they are familiar with.

It could be that you’ve introduced a new technology to help in performing certain tasks and duties.

If your employees disapprove of this, they will not use the tool or technology.

Even if the old way seems more tasking and difficult, they might hold on to it to show their resistance to the change.

Outright Demonstrations and Protests

Of course, the show of resistance to changes, some employees might riot against this outwardly.

This is most common with large organizations that might have unions representing the interest of employees.

They might demonstrate and protest to show they disagree with the change(s) and are not ready nor willing to accept it.

As a result, leading to conflict in the workplace.

What is Responsible for Employees’ Resistance to Change? – Why Employees Resist Change

Employees do not just resist change because they want to be rebellious(some do, though).

There are always underlying reasons why your employees might disapprove of some changes you implement in the workplace.

You should know these reasons because it is impossible to overcome an obstacle you do not really understand.

When you can identify the cause of the resistance, you can start working on preventing or correcting it.

Your employees might be resisting change due to the following reasons:

Not Involving Employees in the Decision-Making Process

Changes around the organization that directly affect employees’ job duties and productivity are personal to them.

They want to know why and when those changes are implemented.

When decisions are made that adversely affect how employees work without sampling their opinions, it might be met with resistance.

Such decisions would involve changes in employees’ work hours, resumption, workload, or working conditions.

The fact remains that your employees want you to value their opinion and input.

Therefore, when you fail to do this and make changes out of the blue, they will most likely resist.

Fear of Failure or Inadequacy 

Another reason employees might object to changes may be due to the fear of failure.

Some changes might come with the need to learn new skills or improve on existing skills.

Certain employees might begin to feel that they do not have what it takes to adjust to this change and get results.

Take, for example, introducing digital data collection methods and storage in an organization where old staff used manual methods.

Some of these employees might think they are inadequate and not able to work with the new system.

Hence, instead of looking for a way to learn how to, the first reaction might be to resist the change.

Not Understanding the Reason for the Change 

A question that your employees might not have answers to which may make them resist change is: “Why is this change necessary?”

Before you can get employees out of their comfort zone to embrace something new, you should give them overwhelming reasons why it has to be that way.

If your employees do not see the immediate benefit of the change or the advantage, they might be inclined to resist the change in the long run.

Failure in Getting Employees Up to Speed on the Change(s)

One thing with organizational changes is that you’re the only one with a clear vision of why it was introduced.

Most times, these changes are new to your employees.

Hence, you need to properly introduce these changes to your employees, especially if it affects their work.

You cannot expect them to jump on the implement changes and enjoy it when they don’t know what they need to do.

Failure to get them up to speed on the changes and expectations could make them resist it.

Unrealistic Expectations Attached to the Change 

To improve sales and drive business growth, some changes you introduce might come with big expectations.

While this is not wrong in itself, could it be that some of those expectations are unrealistic?

When your employees review the terms of the newly introduced system or process, they can quickly figure out the expectations over the top.

More so, when they consider their capabilities and the organization’s support system and notice it’s unsustainable to reach the set expectations, they might be resistant to the change.

This is yet another reason or cause of employees’ resistance to change.

Little or No Support from Management 

When you implement changes and fail to support your employees in adjusting to them, it gives a bad sign.

In the minds of your employees, they were doing fine where they were, and they never asked for the change.

Hence, if you are going to change anything, you should at least be kind enough to help them through the process.

If you put your employees through many changes and offer no support along the line, they are bound to resist the changes.

And that is regardless of how beneficial they seem to be.

A Lack of Confidence in the Person Implement the Changes

Sometimes, resistance to change isn’t even a problem with the change itself, but the person or people making the change.

To trust the organizations’ decisions, there must be a level of trust and confidence in the decision-maker(s).

If you are implementing the change and some of your employees do not believe in your abilities, they might resist.

Additionally, if the organization’s leadership is making these changes and they are not trustworthy, it could also lead to resistance.

What that means is that the person making the changes is just as important as the changes being made.

Just an Emotional Response 

Resistance to change by some employees might also not be anything aside from it being just an emotional response.

Humans are generally satisfied and okay with their comfort zone.

Many of your employees have adjusted so many things in their personal life to maintain the status quo.

Therefore, introducing a change is often seen as an action that upsets the satisfaction they’ve found.

Hence, there is a big chance that the first response is a subconscious resistance to the change out of strong emotions.

Past Experience of Failure in Change Initiatives 

Is your organization known for making changes in the past that do not usually end well and do more harm than good?

If so, you can be sure that your employees do not forget.

Those ugly experiences in how changes did not go well can raise doubts and pessimism in employees’ minds.

In order not to pass through the physical and emotional stress they went through before with no results, they might resist the idea of another change.

Frequent Changes 

Your employees expect that the changes you implement in the business are really needed to drive business growth.

Hence, these changes are meant to be periodical and well-targeted towards a common goal.

However, if you make changes too often, it may not leave a good impression on the employees.

Overall, it gets them confused, and the justification for those changes is lost, leading to possible resistance.

Risk on Job Security 

Another reason employees might resist change in their workplace is their fear of losing their jobs.

They understand that with changes come added responsibilities, expectations, and new opportunities.

The management of your organization might expect them to work harder, smarter, or in a certain way.

Your employees clearly understand that a failure to match up might result in them losing their jobs.

Hence, there might be a resistance to the change.

How to Overcome Resistance to Change with Employees 

Now that we’ve seen what could be responsible for employees’ resistance to change, we are in a good place to solve the problem.

As a matter of fact, with the right strategies, you can even prevent resistance from happening in the first place.

However, we will focus on how to prevent resistance to change.

And also, how to overcome it should it come up.

Try these measures to overcome resistance to change with employees in your business:

Involve all Level Staff in Key Decision Making Process

The easiest way to encourage a possible resistance to change from your employees is by hitting them with it from nowhere.

On the other hand, when your employees are all involved in the decision-making process, the change is easier to accept.

Hence, ensure to sample the opinions of your employees before you make any changes.

This is especially important if this change would affect their job directly.

They would be more willing to listen and accept the changes when they are actively carried along from the inception to the implementation stage.

Clearly Explain the Reason(s) for the Change 

Even before implementing a change, it is important that you clearly state and explain the reason for this to your employees.

Whether or not they agree with the reason, it helps to hear it from you before the change occurs.

It is also essential that the reasons you have for effecting change in the organization clearly show the benefits.

The benefits should be plainly seen, not just for you or the company, but also for the employees as individuals.

When your employees know the reason for the change, they would be more inclined to accept it.

Provide Support and Guidance 

Adjusting to changes can be a daunting prospect for employees.

Moreover, that is one of the reasons why they might be forced or pressured into resisting the change.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way, with proper support and guidance from the manager(s) or those implementing the change.

You understand the new process or tools better, and you also know how best to make them work.

Leaving your employees to figure it all out on their own would only get them frustrated and resistant to the change.

However, when you provide the needed support and guidance, you accept the change as an easy one for them.

You can provide support through hands-on help, training tools, tutorials, seminars e.t.c.

Above all, the method you choose to deploy is dependent on the change(s) you want to effect.

Listen to Employees’ Concerns 

Despite your best efforts to make employees understand the reason for the change and how to get through it, some would still not be a fan of this.

They might have their own reasons why they feel the changes would not work or could be readjusted.

Do not be quick to shrug off such comments or contributions as negativity.

If these walk into your office to express their concerns, listen attentively to them.

Also, if they raise these concerns during meetings and discussions, endeavor to let them express how they feel.

This allows you to reinforce the reasons why the changes were made and return the employees’ confidence.

Who knows? They might be more inclined to align with you and drop the resistance to change.

Breakdown Implementation into Stages

Changing a whole lot of things at the same time might be overwhelming for your employees.

And this, in turn, might make them want to resist the changes.

However, you can avoid this by breaking down the implementation into different stages.

As the employer or manager, you might have the big picture of where you are driving at.

But then, it would be a bad idea to throw all these at your employees all at once.

Introduce the changes to them in bits, and you might find them more willing to embrace it.

Don’t Make Frequent Changes

Your employees are humans with personal problems and limitations.

If you want them to be receptive to change, you need to make it a periodic activity and not a frequent facet of your business.

The way frequent changes work in the minds of employees is similar to how it is with customers.

Making frequent changes can confuse your employees and limit their productivity, as they expect a change at any moment.

It also upsets stability and consistency.

Hence, employees might be prone to resisting such changes.

On the other hand, when you make the changes periodic and only when necessary, it helps your employees be more receptive.

After all, it is not something that always happens, and there must be a valid reason why it’s coming up when it comes up.

Use Trustworthy Individuals as Change Makers

You would recall that we said a reason employees might resist change could also be because they lack trust in the change maker.

This is where the onus falls on you as a business owner to appoint trustworthy people in the position of authority.

When the employees trust the senior management, it is easier to agree with changes.

And to see them for what they say they are.

They are more likely to believe that these have what it takes to get results with the changes.

And when such changes arise, they are confident that it would benefit all parties involved in the long run.

Hence, the less resistance they offer to the change.

Tell Employees What is in it for Them

Often, employees who reject or resist change believe that the changes are only for the business owner’s benefit.

It might be difficult to see how they benefit from the change at first glance.

That is why in any change you plan to implement; you must let the employees know what reward comes with it.

When they see how they benefit from the new system, they would be more willing to adapt and accept it.

Appoint Change Agents or Leaders 

There is a huge chance that not all your employees would resist a change at the same time.

Among your workforce, you might still have employees who believe in your leadership and embrace the changes you bring.

These can play a huge role in convincing others who resist coming onboard.

You can have them tactfully go about selling the benefits of these changes to their fellow employees.

However, be careful while doing this to avoid the action coming off as you manipulating your workers.

If done correctly, though, it can help you overcome resistance from employees to change.

Set Penalties and Consequences if need be

Once you try all of the steps listed above and some employees are still adamant, it could be a sign of rebellion.

It is still good leadership for you to keep arrogance and disregard for authority in check in your organization.

Hence, you can state penalties and consequences for failure to embrace the change effected in the workplace.

There might be just a few “bad eggs” still stubbornly holding on to the status quo.

Hence, these should be properly disciplined, so they don’t contaminate others.

However, remember that this should be the last call.

That is when all other options have been exhausted with little or no results.

Wrapping it up on How to Overcome Resistance to Change with Employees

In conclusion, it goes without saying that change in the workplace is inevitable, and it is a good one.

It can help in developing employees, driving engagement, boosting sales, and growing your business.

However, it could be daunting and sometimes challenging, especially for your employees.

All thanks to the status quo and the convenience of staying in one’s comfort zone.

Hence the need to resist the changes you implement sometimes by your employees.

Nevertheless, with the proper planning process and implementation, you can prevent this.

Overall, you can overcome resistance to change from employees and record more success with acceptance and collaboration.