Factors of Employees’ Resistance to Change

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Every organisation needs to change in order to successfully adjust to new circumstances in the market and improve its efficiency as well as the ability to stay competitive. Companies allocate large financial resources to conducting organisational changes since they recognise their importance for future growth and development. Nevertheless, even when a change campaign is well funded, the main problem may arise from employees’ resistance to the innovation. In other words, due to various factors, employees can be dissatisfied with the management’s plan and can thus disrupt the change efforts. Resistance to organisational change is a complex issue, and generally, there can be many factors associated with it, including poor communication and lack of workers’ motivation.

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The first factor which positively correlates with the opposition to change on the part of employees is the trust in management. According to Moonik et al. (2020), in a company where workers do not trust their superiors, all change efforts can be undermined and may not generate the desired outcome. Thus, when attempting to introduce changes, especially radical ones, the company’s management must ensure that the subordinates have confidence in the actions of the supervisors. The lack of trust can ultimately translate into disruptive behaviours, which can not only prevent the change process from progressing but also disrupt the existing level of performance of the organisation.

Another considerable factor behind the employee resistance to change is the ability of the change agent to design a strategy for implementing an innovative approach successfully. Essentially, a change agent is the manager tasked with helping the organisation to undergo the transformation process by focusing on different aspects such a performance improvement and development (Moonik et al., 2020). The ability of such a person to encourage the staff to follow new rules and guidelines and even potentially embrace new working practices is a significant factor affecting employee resistance. Thus, it is vital that when experiencing transformation, every company appoints a competent change agent capable of avoiding causing employee resistance.

Participation in the change effort is also an important factor affecting the level of resistance of employees to transformations and innovation. Several researchers discovered that whenever employees participated in change initiatives promoted by their employers, they always had a more positive view of the changes (Erwin & Garman, 2010). It is possible to say that when people are not involved in the process of change, they may feel that they do not have control over the situation and cannot influence their environment. As a result, if a person sees that they contribute to the achievement of change goals, they will be less resistant to the transformation initiative itself.

Another factor influencing the employee resistance to organisational transformation is the dispositional resistance of individual workers to any change in their life. Basically, as opposed to organisational factors of resistance to change, there can be individual ones limited to particular people occupying different positions in their companies. Researchers have identified several causes of dispositional resistance, but the two most prominent ones include routine-seeking and cognitive rigidity (Burnes, 2014). Another study showed that a certain number of employees in organisations generally do not like taking risks which are inextricably linked to change (“Resistance to change,” n.d.). Thus, some employees in an organisation can oppose change simply because of their inherent character.

Poor communication between superiors and their subordinates also can lead to change resistance on the part of employees. Poor communication may have manifest itself in different ways, one of them is the lack of effort from managers to listen to workers’ feedback (Matos Marques Simoes & Esposito, 2014). As a result, employees may feel not as part of the change process but as passive objects which can be ordered to embrace a new approach to their work. Similarly, the management can avoid communicating any of their change plans, thus breeding uncertainty among employees (Masunda, 2015). Eventually, due to a lack of proper communication, the change efforts can face opposition from workers.

Employee motivation should also be viewed as a major factor behind the resistance to change in organisations. Whenever considerable changes occur within a company, it is natural for every employee to assess how they can benefit from the situation (Boohene & Williams, 2012). Thus, it is important for managers to introduce incentives for employees which would improve their motivation to embrace change. Otherwise, organisations risk failing to engage employees in the process of change and ultimately being unable to achieve the desired outcomes. Employee motivation can be increased with the help of a financial incentive or promises of better career opportunities.

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The factor of employee resistance to change, which is often overlooked, is the legitimate criticism of the change efforts. In other words, at times, the opposition to organisational transformation may stem from employees’ viable dissatisfaction with the new approach. The changes may oppose employees’ convictions and ideals and be against their impressions of the situation in the company (Bringselius, 2010). For instance, the workers can be dissatisfied with the idea that the new change will lead to poorer performance. Essentially, employees can present legitimate arguments against the change and explain why it will not be beneficial for the company.

Fear is another essential factor which must be taken into consideration when analysing employees’ resistance to change. Any innovation and organisational transformation can be associated with layoffs or a decrease in the level of salaries. As a result, many people may feel frustrated about their future in the company and intentionally resist the change introduced by the management (Vos, 2006). Fear of change may also stem from the need to adopt new approaches to work and gain additional expertise. Thus, companies need to consider the factor of fear during the implementation of changes and how it can undermine the transformation process.

Finally, the level of education of employees also can affect their resistance to change and, ultimately, the transformation process in the organisation. According to Fawzy (2012), a high educational level enables a person to be more opposed to change since they become more willing to debate innovation. The resistance among highly-educated employees stems from the inability to understand the benefits of changes. A person who is competent and educated is likely to have their own views in each situation, and whenever their perspective contradicts one of their superiors, a conflict arises.

The resistance to change on the part of employees is a common phenomenon in organisations which can have many different factors. Employees may experience a lack of trust in the leadership or fear for their future in a changed environment. Workers also may not have enough motivation to embrace the change or simply be not predisposed towards any major transformations. Thus, whenever introducing changes, companies must take into consideration all of the aforementioned factors.


Boohene, R., & Williams, A. (2012). Resistance to organisational change: A case study of Oti Yeboah Complex Limited. International Business and Management, 4(1), 135–145.

Bringselius, L. (2010). Resistance to change: Four interpretations [Working paper].

Burnes, B. (2014). Understanding resistance to change – Building on Coch and French. Journal of Change Management, 15(2), 92–116.

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Erwin, D. G., & Garman, A. N. (2010). Resistance to organisational change: Linking research and practice. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 31(1), 39–56.

Fawzy, M. (2012). A study on resistance to change at Jeddah municipality: A case study of automating the correspondence tracking system. Proceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Istanbul, 2037–2046.

Masunda, T. (2015). An evaluation of resistance to organisational change and its effects on employee productivity: the case of telecom Namibia [Master’s thesis, The University of Namibia]. UNAM Repository.

Matos Marques Simoes, P., & Esposito, M. (2014). Improving change management: how communication nature influences resistance to change. Journal of Management Development, 33(4), 324–341.

Moonik, H., Saerang, D., & Rumokoy, F. (2020). Analysis the factors of employee resistance on organizational change at Lotus resort Mokupa North Sulawesi. Jurnal Riset Ekonomi, Manajemen, Bisnis dan Akuntansi, 8(4), 120–129.

Resistance to change in organisations comes from these 5 factors. (n.d.). Leadership IQ.

Vos, J. (2006). The role of personality and emotions in employee resistance to change.

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