Resistance to organizational change: characteristics, causes and what to do

The human being is an animal of habits and it shows in the workplace. Everyone prefers routine at work rather than having to deal with change.

While we may like to vary from time to time, changes at work are generally frowned upon, not least because it’s about learning to do something new, stepping out of the comfort zone, and going through a adaptation process, which always costs us a little.

Resistance to organizational change is living proof. Below we will explain what it is, what causes it, and what can be done to deal with it.

    What is resistance to organizational change?

    We can define it as resistance to change in the set of attitudes experienced by employees of an organization when they are pushed into a process of change in the workplace, which involves changing your habits and routine.

    Transformations in an organization can be seen as a source of uncertainty, which is why it is inevitable that some employees are reluctant to make it or oppose the changes. This is usually due to the following two reasons:

    • Fear and mistrust of the unknown.
    • Aversion to the effort of learning to do something new.

    According to the resistance of the workers, we can talk about two types of resistance to organizational change.


    Employees do not like the changes that will be introduced, however they do not express it explicitly with words or complaints, but with attitudes and gestures. They manifest a certain unease in the form of internal denial, which results in a decrease in productivity and can even lead to absenteeism.


    In this case, the employees they express their discomfort in words, both among their peers and directly to their superiors. This resistance to organizational change can become so active that it motivates behaviors such as sabotage or strike action, and attempts are made to clearly prevent any changes that are planned in the organization.

      Causes of resistance to organizational change

      In any company where they try to change their habits, traditions and routines, it is to be expected that their workers will experience some rejection and denial before they finally accept the changes introduced.

      Indeed, although it can be explained that the changes will serve to improve the functioning of the company, what happens is that they feel they don’t handle or own the novelty. Of course, not all people will experience the same degree of rejection of change, but it is expected that there will be some rejection.

      Among the causes of resistance to change are.

      1. Threat of individual power

      It is likely that some managers will resist changes, believing that with them their power is reduced, even if it is symbolic, or is transferred to its subordinates.

        2. Threat of organizational power

        Changes can give more power to certain groups, departments or areas of the company. As a result, people who see their power threatened or who fear submitting to others will put up some resistance to the new proposals.

        3. Loss of control over subordinates

        With the new changes, it may happen that managers see that their control over workers is reduced, which they will not receive positively.

        4. Increased employee control

        Changes in the organization can empower employees. This means that they have to take on new responsibilities, sometimes much more important than before., something they may feel they are not properly prepared for.

          5. Fear of reduced wages

          Company changes they can be interpreted as changes in the wages and economic privileges of workers, mainly interpreted as a more or less significant reduction of it.

          6. Get out of the comfort zone

          Often times, changes in the company cause personal inconvenience or make life difficult for employees at first, as they were used to a routine that suddenly changed.

          These changes aim to take workers out of their comfort zone, having to learn to do new tasks, forget about old methods and become familiar with new ones, a tedious process that causes dissatisfaction.

            7. Reallocation of resources

            When changes are made to the organization it often happens that some departments and sectors start to receive more resources, while others lose them. This can lead to tension between the parties that make up the organization, and can lead those who lose part of their resources to view it as theft or theft of rights.

            8. Modifications of personal projects

            Changes can turn everything upside down, halting plans, projects or other activities, both professional, personal and family. This is indeed one of the main causes of resistance to change, since transformation may involve having to rethink in the short, medium and long term a myriad of aspects concerning the company and the personal lives of its workers.

            9. Doubts about the process

            If employees see change as something too abstract, or they just don’t understand why it’s happening, it’s normal for them to resist it. If they do not understand the real purpose of the proposed transformation, they will hardly be able to show their support..

            Since the human mind is generally pessimistic in the face of uncertainty, they assume that the new one to come must necessarily be bad and this causes them reluctance when it arrives.

              10. Different assessments and perceptions

              In the company, there will always be a diversity of opinions on a proposal. As not everyone will agree with the changes to be implemented, it is normal that some people think that the novelty to come is a bad idea and that, commenting on it to others, they spread a bad opinion about the transformation.

              11. Fear of the unknown

              If the upcoming changes are not properly explained, it is quite normal that there is an atmosphere of uncertainty among the workers. As we have said, we often see changes as something potentially dangerous, and if we know absolutely nothing about what the results will be or have not been announced, this fear of the unknown increases and motivates those. who feel it to resist. from him.

              12. Previous experience

              Most seasoned employees have previous experience, knowing that when changes are introduced you have to go through a learning moment that, although they are necessary, they are not comfortable or quick to acquire.

              They know that transition is not an easy process, and if there is an additional precedent that changes introduced by the organization in the past have been unsuccessful, there will be more resistance to organizational change.

                How to promote organizational change?

                Any change that is introduced in an organization will end up provoking some resistance to it.. This is an almost inevitable fact, as all workers feel that with the new changes introduced their daily routine is altered and they are forced to relearn to do their jobs.

                Fortunately, there are a number of tips and strategies that can be followed so that the transformations you want to promote in the company are better accepted and not seen as something so traumatic in terms of the job.

                1. Set goals

                It often happens that workers, once the changes are introduced, do not know what they are for, although for some reason they should be working. The problem isn’t that there aren’t any goals, but that they weren’t communicated properly to the team, nor that goals and target dates were explained. For that clearly defining goals and communicating them to workers, so they know why their routine is changing.

                2. Define actions

                The clearer and simpler the actions to be taken, the better. It is not useful to explain what are the general objectives to be achieved without talking about the details in the form of specific actions that must be mastered.. Define them, explain to workers what to do and how to do it, resistance to change will be reduced because, to begin with, workers will have no doubts about what to do.

                3. Encourage participation

                It is essential that all workers feel involved in the organization and the changes to come. There is a need to provide the team with communication spaces where employees can comment on the progress of progress in the event of an inconvenience. the introduction of changes in the company or if the expected results are not achieved.

                4. Take care of communication

                it is fundamental that all parts of the business are properly communicated, anticipating any lack of information by employees. If workers do not know what to do or do not receive advice from their superiors, mistrust and uncertainty arise, which is why they need to make sure that they receive information in a timely manner.

                Bibliographical references

                • Laporta, A. (2020). How to manage resistance to organizational change? Retrieved from:
                • Management challenges 2021. Causes of resistance to change in companies. EAE Business School. Retrieved from:
                • MA (2019). How to deal with resistance to organizational change? TRENDS. Retrieved from:
                • Peppermint (sf). Keys to promote change in the Organization. Pepper mint.
                • Zuinaga de Mazzei, Soraya (2014). Resistance to organizational change in a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) in the industrial sector. Telos, 16 (2), 226-242.

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