Why are junior and senior managers resisting change?
There are plenty of surface reasons why they resist … but these can be traced to a few underlying causes.
In this article, we’ll look at the fear that causes resistance, and then at the root of those fears.
Why are junior and senior managers resisting change?
As a change manager or change leader, it may be difficult to relate to this resistance.
After all, you have a vision of change.
You know where the company’s headed, what the future holds in store, and why it isn’t so bad after all…
But not everyone shares your enthusiasm.
Junior and senior managers – not to mention other employees affected by the change – aren’t on the same page with you.
That can lead to employee resistance that is caused by fear, such as…
Loss of income
It’s entirely possible that income won’t be affected at all.
It may even grow.
However, whenever change enters the picture – particularly big change – people fear the worst. This can include income loss.
Another specter that can haunt the imaginations of junior and senior managers is job loss. Layoffs are real, and when change comes, this fear looms larger.
Changes in work responsibilities
Another related fear is a change in job description or job duties. People dislike this for a couple reasons.
On the one hand, humans are creatures of comfort and don’t like being pushed into new territory.
On the other, people signed up for a particular job … and changing the job description changes the job they signed up for.
Work culture is a part of the status quo. People are used to it. Any kind of changes to that culture introduces an unknown…
What if the new culture is worse than the current one?
New social dimensions
Social obligations can overlap with cultural shifts. But it can also mean added responsibilities.
Organizational changes could imply changes to the company’s mission, its values, and its attitudes towards customers and employees. Th
Different psychological dynamics
Along with social and formal obligations, psychological dynamics help create what has been called the personal compact.
These 3 elements form a critical multi-dimensional contract between employer and employee. And when that is threatened, the entire basis for employment is thrown into question.
What Causes These Fears?
To uproot these fears, we need to first understand what causes them.
But let’s not blame the junior and senior managers themselves. Instead, let’s be a bit more objective and look at human psychology and the change management process itself.
Yes, it’s certainly possible that certain individuals are just disagreeable.
However, if you start seeing patterns – common fears in different groups – then there’s probably a different cause.
Digging a bit deeper into the psychology of these fears, we can unearth a few potential causes (and solutions):
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of the unknown is perhaps the root cause of what is to follow.
When something new and unknown approaches, imagination takes flight.
As we’ll see below, there two excellent ways to dissolve this fear:
- Clear, ongoing communication
- Total participation and involvement
What happens when you don’t communicate or allow enough participation…?
They’re alienated from the change process.
Being isolated from the change process breeds fear of the unknown.
When employees and managers are kept in the dark, then it is easy to imagine the worst.
Also, it should go without saying that isolating employees in this way makes them feel unimportant.
That’s why, when change does happen, they can feel besieged and trapped. This scenario can breed resentment, so should be avoided at all costs.
Inability to visualize the change.
Junior and senior managers aren’t always invested in change management.
They certainly aren’t as invested as change leaders. Therefore, it’s hard for them to actually visualize what the end result will be.
And, again, not knowing the end result can spark the imagination … in a bad way.
They don’t want to put in the extra work.
This isn’t to say that they are lazy (though that may be true in some cases).
The reality is that everyone is busy. When a change initiative comes through the pipeline, they have to learn new software skills or job skills and take on new tasks.
…on top of their existing workload.
As a consequence, their job duties multiply.
They feel able to change or they see the change as risky.
Change comes about for a variety of reasons, from customer demand to mergers and acquisition.
The reasons for the change notwithstanding, managers may not feel up to the task.
They may feel that they – or the company – won’t be able to change successfully.
As a result, motivation and effort can drop off rapidly.
Conclusion: What’s the Solution to Resistance?
Resistance from junior managers, senior managers, and employees is a big obstacle for change management.
Tackling that resistance could be the subject of many articles … and it is.
Solutions for overcoming barriers to change management include adopting the right change framework, building the right change team, adopting the right software platforms, and experimenting with tools and techniques.
To tackle resistance, research deeply, plan deeper, and stay in constant communication with your managers.
Discuss problems with them first and foremost … before it gets out of hand.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.