Why do people fear change?


Adam Kreuzer, Dorfen Health Services

People fear change. Why is this the case? Is it the fear of the unknown? Is it the uncertainty this represents? What is it about change which makes staff nervous, particularly when it comes to changes from a career, individual or organisational perspective?

According to Harvard Business Review, “one of the most baffling and recalcitrant of the problems which business executives face is employee resistance to change. Such resistance may take many forms -persistent reduction in output, increase in the number of resignations and requests for transfer, chronic quarrels, sullen hostility, wildcat or slowdown strikes. Even the pettier forms of this resistance can be troublesome”.

According to leading change management research house Prosci, organisations should consider the following change management activities to ensure smooth and effective change and transition:

  • Utilize a structured change management approach from the initiation of the project
  • Engage senior leaders as active and visible sponsors of the change
  • Recruit the support of management, including middle managers and frontline supervisors, as advocates of the change
  • Communicate the need for change, the impact on employees and the benefits to the employee (answering “What’s in it for me?” or WIIFM)

Additionally, Prosci also advised that “much of the resistance that staff encounter could have been avoided if they applied solid change management practices and principles. The moral here is: if you do change management right the first time, you can prevent much of the resistance from ever occurring”.

Interestingly, Forbes have stated that “leadership is about leading, but it’s also about implementing change. While many people like to joke that the only constant in business is change, change has an interesting way of affecting people that can often result in resistance. This resistance can range from subtle, such as avoidance or passive aggressive behaviour, all the way to outright defiance, hostility, and sabotage. The best way to avoid resistance to change? Seek to uncover potential resistance prior to implementing change”.

In the current global business environment, rapid technological advancement continues to impact all sectors and industries to varying degrees. Leading website IT Brief have stated that they “are seeing companies transform their business environments, leveraging new technology that automates processes to achieve greater productivity, more streamlined operations, and enhanced collaboration”.

IT Brief continue by saying that “referred to as digital transformation, this has been a determining factor of competitive advantage and success over the past decade. The reality is that new technology will never be able to take over entire workforces but will certainly become part of them. It is now vital for business leaders to design digital workplaces that enable staff and technology to work seamlessly together”.

There are abundant examples of where industries and the businesses operating within those industries have failed to embrace the changes that have impacted them so directly. Where this is most evident is where organisations have found themselves operating as monopolies in an uncompetitive marketplace. A good example of this is the newspaper industry.

According to Business Insider Australia magazine, “for generations the newspaper industry thrived despite a key fact: the source of its wealth was not the focus of its management, and certainly not the focus of its most talented employees.  Students of business history will note that such fundamental disconnects between how a company sees itself and how its customers see it is a chronic challenge of monopolists.  And make no mistake, prior to the rise of the internet newspapers were local monopolies, with all the out sized profitability and resistance to change that word implies”.

At the end of the day, for any change management program to be effective within an organisation, it comes down to leadership. According to the Change Factory, “managing change requires a leadership team with project management, communication and analytical skills with a high degree of results orientation. The latter is important as when a journey of change is embarked upon, the environment in which the change is being implemented immediately changes. A changing environment often calls for changed tactics to achieve the same result”.

For more information, please contact:

Adam Kreuzer
Registered Counsellor and Mental Health Advisor
Dorfen Health Services
Phone: 1300 45 91 51
Email: info@dorfen.com.au

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