Sources of individual Resistance21st March 2021
The resistance towards change at an individual level can be due to various reasons:
- How satisfied they are with the existing state of affairs
- Whether they appreciate the overall end product of change and it’s outcome on them
- How much practical or realistic the change is
- What will be the possible cost change on the individual in terms of potential risks involved, pressure to develop new competencies and disruptions
The following factors explain why individuals may pose resistance towards change:
- Habits: We individuals are influenced by our habits in our ways of working and accept or reject a change depending upon the effect which a change may have on the existing habits of the individuals. For example, change in the office location might be subjected to resistance from the individuals as this might compel them to change their existing life routine and create a lot of difficulties in adjustment or coping with the schedule. The individuals might have to drive a longer way for reaching their office, or start early from home for reaching their office in time, etc.
- Lack of Acceptability or Tolerance for the Change: Some individuals endorse change and welcome a change initiative happily while few individuals fear the impact of change. Over a period of time change fatigue also builds up.
- Fear of a Negative Impact Economically or on the Income: During the process of organizational restructuring or introduction of organization-wide change as a strategic move on the part of the management, several inhibitions, and fear rule the thought process of the individuals. Fear of possible loss of a job as a result of change or a change in their income structure or may be a change in their work hours could be one amongst the possible reasons.
- Fear of the Unseen and Unknown Future: Individuals develop inertia towards the change due to the fear of unknown or uncertainties in the future. This can be tackled through effective communication with the participants of change and making people aware of the positives of change and the course of action which individuals are expected to follow to cope with the changing requirements successfully.
- Fear of Losing Something Really Valuable: Any form of threat to personal security or financial security or threat to the health of the individuals may lead to fear of losing something precious as a result of the implementation of change.
- Selective Processing of Information: It can be considered as a filtering process in which the individuals perceive or make judgments by gathering selective information which is greatly influenced by their personal background, attitude, personal biases or prejudices, etc. If an individual maintains a negative attitude towards any kind of change, then they are having a usual tendency of looking at the negativities associated with the change and involve all the positive aspects of it.
- A Rigid Belief that change cannot bring about any facilitating change in the organization and it only involves the pain and threats to the individuals.
There are many emotional factors which also generate resistance to change. As indicated earlier, people may not analyze the likely impact of change in an objective manner but they may be governed by their feelings, emotions, attitudes, etc. Thus, many factors will produce resistance to change like fear of unknown, ego defensiveness, group norms, and social displacement.
- Fear of Unknown
People fail to evaluate the impact of change because it is future-oriented. Therefore, some amount of uncertainty is always there. It is a tendency to discount future impact because of two reasons:
- First, people may derive benefits or otherwise in future while they have to pay the cost at the present. Naturally, they will discount the future.
- Second, future is uncertain and the impact may not be exactly in the same way as predicted. The unknown poses a constant threat to people.
Therefore, the fear of unknown makes people uncomfortable, as the impact of change is unknown.
- Ego Defensiveness
Sometimes people resist change because it is ego deflating. Ego defensive people always resist such a change. Everyone has some ego which one tries to maintain. Ego is the state of a person’s way of behaving, thinking, and feeling. Any attack on these, actual or perceived by the person, will be resisted. For example, a foreman is unlikely to accept a change suggested by a worker because he may feel that his ego has been hurt. If he is highly ego defensive, he may take it even adversely.
- Group Norms
People also resist change because the group to which they belong resists it. Though each person interprets change individually, often he expresses it through the group. He follows the group norms. The degree and extent of group pressure on individual to resist the change will depend on two factors.
- First, how loyal an individual is towards the group. If he is loyal to the group, he will resist the change even though it may be beneficial to him:
- Second, how the group perceives it as a separate class than change agent: higher is the difference between two, higher will be the degree of resistance and its impact on individuals.
For example, if managers and workers see them as distinct classes and perceive their interests-differently, there will be more resistance to change by workers and individual workers will resist it vehemently.
2. Social Displacement
Introduction of change often results in social displacement of people like breaking of informal groups and relationships. When the friendship with fellow-members is interrupted, there is a possibility for the employees to experience psychological let down. Therefore, they dislike new adjustment, breaking up of present social relationships, reduced social satisfaction, and feeling of outside interference in the form of change.
Many emotional problems relating to change are difficult to overcome because these are based on non-logical considerations rather than the rational considerations. People’s perception of the likely impact of change is affected considerably by their personal factors and group factors to which they belong rather than technical aspect of change. Thus, the degree of resistance to change will be determined by the effect of change on people’s need satisfaction and the way the change agent brings the change.
3. Obsolescence of Skills
Change may result in obsolescence of skills specially when altogether a new method of working is adopted. With the adoption of new method of working, old techniques become useless and consequently old skills become obsolete. Therefore, when people sense that new method of working poses a threat of replacing them or in some way affecting them adversely, they will resist it.
It is not necessary that with the adoption of new method, people with old skills will be replaced; there may be other consequences also like reduction in authority of the position which they have been holding, attaching less importance to the jobs they have been performing, and so on.
4. Economic Reasons
People resist change if they feel that it is likely to affect them unfavorably so far as their economic needs are concerned. The greater the amount of loss perceived, greater is the degree of resistance. People may perceive several types of economic losses because of change, major of them being as follows:
- Fear of technological unemployment;
- Fear of reduced work hours and consequently reduced monetary benefits;
- Fear of demotion and consequently reduced pay;
- Fear of speed-up and reduced incentive wages; etc.
- Problem of Adjustment
Perhaps most important factor for resistance to change is the problem of adjustment. Each individual tries to maintain a sort of equilibrium, both at formal level as well as at informal level. When change comes, it requires people to make adjustment so as to cope with the new situation.
People seek status quo because once they establish equilibrium, they may not like that it is disturbed. Status quo gives them more satisfaction because the existing equilibrium has been arrived at by eliminating those forces which give people discomforts. When change is introduced, this equilibrium does not remain as satisfactory as it was before the change.