Navigating resistance to organisational change

June 7, 2023
Mark Sharp

Organisational change can be challenging, especially when it involves shifting established processes, practices, or procedures. While change is often necessary to stay competitive and adapt to new circumstances, resistance to change is a common and understandable response.

Navigating resistance to organisational change requires a careful approach considering the reasons for resistance, communication strategies, and effective change management techniques.

The reasons for resistance to change can take many forms; from outright opposition to passive resistance. It's essential to understand the reasons for resistance to navigate it effectively.

Some common reasons for resistance to change include:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Loss of control or power
  • Concerns about job security
  • Lack of trust in leadership or the change process
  • Misalignment with personal values or goals

By understanding the reasons for resistance, you can tailor your approach to address those concerns and communicate the benefits of the change. Here are four key strategies for overcoming resistance to organisational change.

Clear and transparent communication

This is the foundation for successful organisational change. Effective communication involves more than just sending a message; it requires active listening, feedback, and a willingness to engage in two-way communication with employees.

Leaders must ensure their communication is clear, concise, and easy to understand. They must use plain language and avoid jargon, acronyms, and technical terms that may confuse employees unfamiliar with them.

In addition to being clear, communication must also be transparent. Leaders must be open and honest about the reasons for the change and the potential impact on employees. They should acknowledge employees' uncertainties and concerns and provide information on how they will be addressed.

Regular updates are also essential to maintain transparency and build trust. Leaders must provide timely and accurate information about the progress of the change process, any challenges that arise, and how they are being addressed. This helps employees stay informed and engaged and reduces anxiety about the change.

Effective communication is not a one-time event but an ongoing process requiring attention and effort. So leaders must be willing to listen to feedback, address concerns, and adjust their communication strategies as needed to ensure that employees feel heard and valued throughout the change process.  

Involving employees in the change process

Involving employees in the process effectively ensures the change is well-received and implemented successfully. By engaging employees in the planning and implementation stages of the change, they become more invested in the process and are more likely to support it. This can reduce resistance to the change and make it easier to implement.

When employees feel they have a say in the change process, they are more likely to feel valued and respected by their employer. This can build trust and strengthen the relationship between employees and management, positively impacting employee morale and productivity.

It's crucial to involve employees in the change process early and communicate clearly and transparently with them about the reasons for the change, the goals of the change, and how it will affect them. It's also important to listen to their feedback and concerns and consider them when planning and implementing the change.

Organisations can create a culture of collaboration and teamwork by involving employees in the change process, fostering innovation and continuous improvement. This approach can also help to reduce the risk of resistance to change, which can be a significant obstacle to success in any change initiative.  

Providing training and support

By offering employees the training and resources they need to develop new skills, leaders can help them feel more confident and capable of adapting to the changes. This can also help employees feel more invested in the change process and more connected to the organisation as a whole.

Plus, providing training and support can demonstrate to employees that leaders are committed to helping them succeed in their roles. This can foster a sense of trust and loyalty between employees and the organisation, improving employee retention and overall job satisfaction.  

One approach we highly recommend is a concentrated focus on coaching and support and not overly rely on formal training – this will foster the right behaviours and show leaders willing to work alongside people to solve challenges.

Celebrating successes

Celebrating successes is an essential aspect of change management as it helps maintain employee morale and motivation during a challenging transition period. When employees put in extra effort to achieve the goals of a change initiative, it's essential to recognise and appreciate their hard work. Celebrating successes can take various forms, such as recognising individual or team achievements, hosting a company-wide event or party, or providing incentives or rewards.

By celebrating successes, organisations can create a positive and supportive work environment, which can help to maintain employee engagement and reduce resistance to change. Recognising and rewarding employees for their contributions can also build trust and foster a sense of ownership and commitment towards the change initiative.

They can also provide a sense of progress and momentum towards the ultimate goal, boosting employee morale and reinforcing the benefits of the change. It also helps to communicate to employees that their efforts are making a difference and that their work is appreciated.

Celebrating successes is an essential part of change management, and it can significantly impact the success of a change initiative. By recognising and celebrating employees' hard work and efforts, organisations can build a culture of positivity and engagement, which can drive success and achieve the desired outcomes of the change initiative.

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