Recognizing The 5 Faces of Resistance to Change

For change to work, it needs to gain the support of others. How others will respond depends on your value proposition. Resistance to change happens when the perceived costs for changing are substantially higher than the effort to change.

We identified five reasons why people resist change. We refer to them as the “5 Faces of Resistance.” Each face indicates a distinctive reason for opposing the change. Recognizing each face of resistance helps us know the deeper reasons driving the response.

Key Point Resistance to change happens for good reasons. Lasting solutions come by resolving the deeper concerns that cause people to resist. By addressing the root causes we can solve  a problem in a way that it stays solved. The correct actions remedy the root cause by removing the barriers of resistance.

As we address the root causes behind resistance, we are able to engage people once again. When we remove the source for resistance, we immediately gain greater support. Then, change is possible.

When introducing a change we recognize that some people will tend to resist it. At times, we are the ones resisting it. It is important to accept such responses not as a negative view, or an obstacle, but as the opportunity for real growth. Change without resistance will not produce growth.

Resistance is for a reason. Usually what people are resisting is not the change itself, but the real or perceived pain of making the change. When making a change, we need to first consider what others want.

Unless we address the root cause, the issues will persist. Ignoring these signs only makes them worse. But when we solve a problem at their root cause, the situation is solved for good.

Just like an iceberg, what we see, hear and experience on the surface is a small portion of what lies below the surface. The skill is to look for what lies beneath the symptoms to get to root causes.

The 5 Faces of Resistance show predictable ways people oppose change. These are subtle, and at times not so subtle, cues that point to the root cause. As we recognize these verbal and non-verbal expressions, we begin to understand the root causes.

Our research shows that al forms of resistance to change point to distinctive root causes explaining why people won’t embrace a change. The five root causes are:

  1. Low Trust
  2. Lack of Focus
  3. Poor Capability
  4. Weak Commitment
  5. Low Accountability

Recognizing the five root causes in every day situations helps us avoid failures. We can detect the early warnings before they become a crisis. We can anticipate reactions and be prepared to respond in more useful ways. We can prevent predictable problems by making course corrections.

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