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Dealing with Resistance to Organizational Change

By Joan Lloyd

Life is full of situations in which two people have very different perspectives on the same thing. Many of these disagreements center on fairly trivial topics (e.g., which animals make the best pets, what the greatest movie ever made is), but sometimes they are about subjects with much larger implications. Organizational change is one such topic–and a potentially controversial and polarizing one, too, because often when it comes up some people are simply unable or unwilling to visualize the new possibility. In those cases, their resistance can influence whether a proposal moves forward successfully.

When people express that sort of resistance and don’t readily accept the new way of doing things, others often perceive them as uncooperative obstacles who have their own agendas and who aren’t team players. But the truth is that many people who resist organizational change aren’t necessarily operating with bad intentions. For instance, they may think the changes will hurt customers or the company in some way. Or perhaps they don’t really understand what the changes are supposed to accomplish.

Openly stated opposition isn’t the only form that resistance can take:

Managers who must deal with organizational change without guidance frequently make common mistakes. For example:

These are just a few of the responses that can derail change efforts–and cause long-term harm to organizations. Fortunately, many great managers invest the time and effort into helping their employees understand the change and how it affects them. Their effective strategies include the following:

Change is never easy, and because of the scale involved organizational change brings its own particular challenges. But through clear and deliberate communication, managers can help employees understand the purpose of proposed changes. And with a clear understanding in hand, those employees are more likely to drop their resistance to change and embrace it instead.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee-based executive coach who specializes in leadership development, organizational change, and team building. In addition to coaching for executives and team leaders, her services include 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation, presentation skill coaching, and small group labs. She can be reached at (414) 573-1616 or via

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