The 3 Types of People Who Resist Change (And What to Do About It)

by | Sep 7, 2023

Hello, my friends! Thank you for giving my very first LinkedIn Newsletter a skim through! Now, I know it’s just a skim, and that’s okay, as I, too, sit and skim through many great articles and learnings found on this great learning platform. This past year I have been buried in requests from companies of all sizes to speak at leadership events or facilitate in-person or virtual customized leadership training. Companies of all sizes are invested in helping their people leaders continue to define and refine their leadership capabilities. Now, the number one request that tops all other asks for me to speak on is the topic of leading CHANGE! And what to do when people resist change. Go figure, right? I bet you didn’t see that coming. (I’d insert a wink emoji here if I knew how).

One thing we all have in common is that we all live and work in environments of continual change —accelerated customer expectations, evolving regulations, ever-expanding advancements in technology, and dynamics created by an ever-changing workforce. And let’s not forget not too far in the past stay-at-home directives that launched teams and individuals into remote and virtual work environments. This constant change has all companies scrambling to meet key objectives as competitive landscapes continue to evolve.

Adapting to continual change is not just the trend. It is the new reality for all organizations around the globe.  Quote by Alice Meredith

As a culture strategist, I love the work I do. I am blessed to work in the space of my greatest passion, helping leaders build positive cultures, most specifically build change-ready cultures and cultures of belonging.

Minimizing and resolving change resistance is a struggle for many leaders. All leaders recognize that with every change initiative comes some level of conflict. But did you know that there are ways to identify those who are most likely to resist change? By doing so, you can be better prepared to navigate the conflict that comes with every change initiative.

Three Primary Types of Change Resisters

There are three primary types of change resisters: those who fear the unknown, those who have been burned by a change in the past, and those who simply don’t like change. Each type presents its own challenges, but if you can identify which type(s) of change-resister(s) you’re dealing with, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the conflict that comes with every change initiative.

Fear of the Unknown

Some people resist change because they fear the unknown. They’re comfortable with the status quo and don’t see any reason to rock the boat. To them, change is always disruptive and rarely leads to anything good. If you’re dealing with this type of change-resister, it’s important to emphasize that the proposed changes are not as drastic as they may seem. Reassure them that the changes will not be implemented overnight and that there will be a period of adjustment. Most importantly, give them a chance to voice their concerns and be open to making tweaks to the plan based on their feedback.

Burned by Change in the Past

Other people resist change because they’ve been burned by it in the past. Maybe they were part of a previous initiative that didn’t go well or they watched others around them struggle through a difficult transition. If this is the case, then it’s important to stress that things will be different this time around. Share what lessons were learned from previous initiatives and how those lessons will be applied to this one. Also, make sure that you involve these individuals in the planning process so they feel like they have some skin in the game.

Simply Don’t Like Change

Finally, some people resist change simply because they don’t like it—plain and simple. They’re comfortable with things as they are and don’t see any need for improvement. If this is your situation, then it’s important to stress that even though things may be working well now, there’s always room for improvement. Help them see how the proposed changes will benefit both them and the organization as a whole. And again, involve them in the planning process so they feel like their input is valued and appreciated. 

Identifying those who are most likely to resist change — and understanding why they resist—is key to being able to navigate conflict when implementing any sort of change initiative in your organization. By taking the time to understand where your team members are coming from, you can develop a plan that will help ease their fears and concerns and make them more open to embracing new ideas and ways of doing things.

If you are interested in continuing your learning journey to level up your change leadership muscles feel free to check out (or skim through) my many Change Leadership courses on the #pluralsight learning platform by clicking here.

Also I have written a few articles talking about Motivating and Encouraging Employees of Different Generations

In closing, I’ll leave you this next message from one of my favorite old-school rock groups, The Scorpions. Yes, for those who don’t know yet, I proudly identify as a #classicrockgroupie and spend my free time attending old-school concerts. For those who vibe on music day in and day out as I do, send me a DM here on LinkedIn with your favorite song that speaks about the changing world we live in.

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If you have a favorite change success tip or story and would like to collaborate with me on my next project, shoot me a DM. -Alice

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