Causes of Resistance to Change

Managing resistance to change is important part for success of any change effort in each company. Dealing with resistance in large part will depend on your timely recognition of the real causes of resistance to change.

Organizational change is an activity of transformation or modification of something in your organizational system. The main purpose of this activity is to make improvements of your business performances. You can’t find person who would like to implement change if that change process bring results with which the organisation will become worse or there will not be any improvements.

An organisation, or business, or company is interactive with its environment. Each environmental change will affect the work and performances of the organization, and because of that it will need to adapt itself regarding changes in the environment. So, the organizational change is activity of differentiation or modification of the organization with main purpose to bring improvements of overall business processes and to bring adaptation in relation to the ongoing changes in the environment.

When we talk about organizational change we need to mention that this process isn’t simply journey from point A to point B. Many barriers you will need to pass if you want to succeed in your intentions to improve your business. One of the biggest barriers is resistance to change as an integral part of each change process. Managers will need to be aware that there will be always persons in their organizations that will resist the proposed changes. Because of that, efficiency and effectiveness of the change process will be in direct relation with resistance to change and successful managing resistance to change.

The practice of managing resistance to change recognise four types of persons regarding their responses to changes. So, we can have:

  • Persons who will initiate the change process.
  • Persons who will accept the proposed change.
  • Persons who will be indifferent to the proposed change.
  • Persons who will not accept the proposed change.

Persons that will not belong in any of the above mentioned categories is more likely to be resistant to proposed changes, and in the same time to accept or initiate other types of changes.

28 Causes of Resistance to Change

I’ve been conducted an literature and practical research of that enable me to discover 28 possible causes of resistance to change. Here I will shortly present these 28 causes.

  1. Threat of power on an individual level. It is more likely that managers will resist changes that will decrease their power and transfers it to their subordinates;
  2. Threat of power on an organizational level. With the change process, some groups, departments or sectors in the organization become more powerful. Because of that some persons will be opposed to such a proposal or processes where they will lose their organizational power;
  3. Losing the control by employees. The change process sometimes can reduce the level of control that managers can conduct. In such a way managers can resist the proposed changes if the change process will require reduction of their control power;
  4. Increasing the control on the employees. Organizational changes can increase the managerial control on the employees, and this process can produce employees to become resistant to that proposals;
  5. Economic factors. Organizational changes sometimes can be seen from the employee’s side simply as something that will decrease or increase their salary or other economic privileges that some workplace brings to them in the moment before implementation of the change process. It is normal to expect that those people who feel that they will lose the portion of their salary will resist the change.
  6. Image, prestige and reputation. Each workplace brings adequate image, prestige and reputation that are important to all employees. Organizational changes can make drastically shift in these employee’s benefits. If this is the case with the proposed change, then it will produce dissatisfaction and resistance to change process;
  7. Threat of comfort.Organizational changes in many case results in personal discomfort and make employee’s life more difficult. They make a transfer from the comfort of the status quo to discomfort of the new situation. Employees have skills to do an old job without some special attention to accomplishing the task. Each new task requires forgetting the old methods of doing the job and learning new things that lead to waste of energy, and causes dissatisfaction;
  8. Job’s security. Organizational change can eliminate some work places, can produce technological excess, layoffs and so on. Job’s security simply is one of the causes of resistance to change;
  9. Reallocation of resources. With organizational changes, some groups, departments or sectors in the organization can receive more resources why other will lose. So, this will bring resistance from the individuals, groups or departments who will lose some of there currently available resources.
  10. Already acquired interests of some organizational groups. Organizational change can make new groups more significant for the success of the organization. That’s a big threat for old coalitions that will cause resistance to change in those groups that will become more insignificant with the proposals;
  11. Implications on personal plans. Organizational change can stop other plans, projects or other personal or family activities that can cause resistance to change at those persons who will be covered with this change;
  12. Too much dependence of others. In an organisation there are employees who are too much depended on other individuals. This dependence is based on current support that they receive from powerful individuals. If the changes process bring the threat of that dependence it will cause resistance to change of those persons that will be threatened with this change;
  13. Misunderstanding the process. Organizational individuals usually resists change when they are not understanding the the real purpose of the proposed changes. When employees not understand the process, they usually assume something bad. This will cause resistance to change;
  14. Mistrust to initiators of change. When employees do not have trust to initiators of the process, the process will not be accepted and this will cause resistance to change;
  15. Different evaluation and perception.Different evaluation and perception can affect the organizational changes if there are persons who consider the proposed changes as a bad idea. Because of that they are resistant to proposed changes.
  16. Fear of unknown. Organizational change in many cases lead to uncertainty and some dose of fear. It is normal people to feel fear of uncertainty. When employees feel uncertainty in a process of transformation, they think that changes are something dangerous. This uncertainty affects organizational members to resist the proposed change;
  17. Habits. Employees work in large part is based on habits, and work tasks are performed in a certain way based on that habits. Organizational changes require shifts of that habits and because of that dissatisfaction from the proposals.
  18. Previous Experience. All employees already have some experience with a previous organizational change process and know that this process is not an easy process. That experience simply will tell them that more change processes in the past have been unsuccessful. So, this can cause resistance to change;
  19. Threat to interpersonal relations. Employees are often friends with each other and they have a strong social and interpersonal relationship inside and outside organization. If an organizational change process can be seen as a threat to these powerful social networks in the organization, the affected employees will resist to that change.
  20. Weakness of the proposed changes. Sometimes proposed change might have a weakness that can be recognised by the employees. So, that employees will resist the implementation of the process until these weaknesses will not be removed.
  21. Limited resources. A normal problem in every organization is limited resources. When resources are limited, and with organizational change that resources are threatened, resistance to change is more likely;
  22. Bureaucratic inertia. Every organisation have their own mechanisms as a rules, policies, and procedures. Even though individuals want to change their behavior these mechanisms in many cases can resist to the proposed changes;
  23. Selective information processing. Individuals usually doing selective information processing, or hear only something that they want to hear. They simply ignore information that is opposite of the current situation, and with this, they are preventing to accept important aspects of proposed changes, and it affects appearing resistance to change;
  24. Uninformed employees. Often times employees are not provided with adequate information about organizational changes that must be implemented.  And normally, this can cause resistance to change;
  25. Peer pressure. Often, we utilize some kind of informal punishment for colleagues who supports change which others are not supporting. This can have a large impact on appearing and increasing resistance to change;
  26. Skepticism about the need of change. If the problem is a not personal thing of an employee, they do not see the real need why they will need to be changed. Those that can’t see the need of change, will have low readiness for the change process;
  27. Increasing workload. In the process of organizational change, employees except for normal work activities usually will be loaded with activities of a new change process. These increasing workloads, affects appearing resistance to change;
  28. Short time to performing change. Because organizational systems are open systems and they are interactive with their environment, the need of change often comes from outside and performing rates are dictated from the outside of an organization. These situations  lead to a short time about implementation of the organizational change process and causing resistance to change.

What are you thinking? Is there something that you have experienced as a source of resistance that can be included in the following list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Reference List

The reference list of literature sources you can find in the post titled as: 28 Factors That Causes Resistance to Change: Reference List.

Signup Today and Get Free Innovation and Business Building Tips



  • Pingback: Business Success in 50 Steps()

  • kayz

    its useful especially at us students keep it up

  • Amey amez

    Thank you so much… its helped me on my term paper

    Bless keep up the good work

  • ivournie Muwowo

    It is difficult to find let even buy books in the third world. You find that books cost 20% of what one earns. Though internet connectivity is erratic, we are able to get useful information for us students doing advanced degrees. Thanks. Without your help it would be hell for us. Even though i work at the highest institution of learning in Zambia its difficult to get information

  • bijuterii argint

    I would add some ideas: short time to performing change, skepticism about the need of change, peer pressure.

    • Sutevski

      They are already in the list – 28, 26, 25

  • Pingback: Changes in Your Business: Don't Do These 6 Things When – Entrepreneurship In A Box()

  • Pingback: Optimal Level of Resistance to Change – Entrepreneurship In A Box()

  • Dominic Kelly

    Hello there, fantastic article on the resistance to organisational change. You don’t happen to have a reference list for your sources?


    • Dragan

      Hi Dominic,

      I will send you reference list for the sources on your email.


      • Moe

        Good Article, but resources will be really appreciated.

        • Dragan

          Hi Moe,

          I will send you email with the resource list.


  • Nafisetu Awonong

    Thank you. Please I will like to have the reference list and resources list. Good work done

  • bushra

    thnx, it was assignment topic and it help me to make my assignment

  • hl6tgh

    its a good website its help me in my assignment about entrep(entrepreneur).

  • Rhoda Zulu

    my struggle to get this info for my assignment is over….bravo!

  • xv2012

    I am grateful for the owner (s) of this my examination question and it will help me do my examination..thanks for the good work..

  • siraji nasur

    thank you very much. keep it up, it has made me prepared for forth coming examination. let GOD bless you abundantly.

  • Adu Gyamfy, Boadi

    Thanks it quiet understandable keep it up.

  • peter

    Great article! I’m sensitising staff on organizational change this should help me put up an informed ppt presentation. Keep it up. Thank you

    • Dragan

      Hi Peter, I wish you a big success with your change efforts!

  • Tom

    It is really helpful research on organisational changes, and especially about resistance to change

    • sutevskid

      Thanks Tom

  • Thampuran

    Hi Dragan,
    Thank you very much for the share. It was really useful. Keep it up… :)

  • jean

    You should have someone edit your grammar. The vast number of mistakes made this difficult to read.