Healthy Work Environments

Dealing with change

One of the major issues which could be affecting people in the workplace is dealing with change. Individuals manage change as part of everyday living. Change at work becomes an issue when we believe that we have not been consulted about the change and that somehow it is being forced on us.

When this happens our response is to resist the change.

Resisting change as a defence mechanism increases the demands on us and can result in experiencing symptoms of stress. Listed below are some of the reasons for resisting change:


Reasons for resisting change


Loss of control

When people feel too much of the change is ‘being done to them’ rather than done ‘by them’.


Loss of face

If change results in people losing face or status.


Loss of identity

People build identities around aspects of their job and organisation. Getting rid of important symbols and traditions can hurt.


Loss of competence

When people feel their old competences are challenged and they lack the new competences to deal with the changed situation.


Excessive personal uncertainty

When people don’t know what the change is going to mean for them and their job.



Springing change on people is likely to make them sceptical and defensive.


More work

Usually change means more work for those involved.


Past resentments

People resist change if it is led by someone against whom they have past grievances. Forcing through change can build up problems for the future.


Unintended consequences

When the change in one area leads to unintended consequences in another.


Real threats

When change threatens an individual’s or group’s interests: e.g. the closure of a project.

(Source: based on Kanter, cited in Lorenz, 1985)

Overcoming resistance to change


Path to Solution

Where there is a lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis

Education and Communication

Where the initiators do not have all the information they need to design the change, and where others have considerable power to resist

Participation and Involvement

Where people are resisting because of adjustment problems

Facilitation and Support

Where someone or some group will clearly lose out in a change and where that group has considerable power to resist

Negotiation and Agreement

Where other tactics will not work, or are too expensive

Manipulation and Co-option

Where speed is essential and the change initiators possess considerable power

Explicit and Implicit Coercion

(Source: based on Kotter and Schleisinger).

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