Understanding resistance to change

Is resistance to change truly irrational?

Many times, people being impacted by an organizational change initiative are called “irrational” or even worse by those leading the effort. However, even someone who is clinically insane is behaving rationally within their worldview. To themselves, people do not behave irrationally though they may be viewed that way by others. The challenge is to sufficiently understand their worldview in order to grasp why they are behaving the way they are. This resistance can then manifest itself in many different ways.

• Inertia – comfort with the status quo
• Timing – conflicts with other initiatives and/or priorities
• Surprise – proper groundwork has not been done so people are caught off guard (need for change not established)
• Misunderstanding – benefits not properly understood
• Cultural pressure – some who may want to change are held back by others in the organization
• Self-interest – conflicting personal priorities
• Differing assessment – conflicting agreement over the value of the benefits associated with the change
• Difficulty of change – organizational momentum and individual resistance

To close the loop then, who is being irrational?  The person resisting because of a factor known to the resister and not you?  Or you for believing everyone holds the same view regarding the desirability of the change?


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