Strategic Human Capital Insights

'Antichange' Code: How to Recognize Employee Resistance to Change

Businessman hand selecting different arrows as leadership conceptWhen we talk about resistance to change, it's easy to say, "Organizations don't change, people do, or don't".  While true, change will only occur when change cascades down throughout every level of the organization.  

We need to view organizational change simultaneously at two levels, macro and micro, in order to diagnose where the entire organization is on the change trajectory.  It's easy to see change at the macro level.  It is normally displayed by senior-level leadership speaking in broad, strategic terms, focusing on positive impact of the change.  It is, however, equally as important to focus change efforts at THE most granular level in the organization - each person.  As managers, your job is to listen to how each employee is articulating, or not articulating, their issues around change.  

We know there are four change levels.  These levels closely parallel Maslow's Needs Hierarchy.  The change trajectory describes these stages of change acceptance as:  denial;  resistance;  exploration; commitment.  As your people go through these stages, how do you, as managers, recognize which stage each employee is in at any given time?  

Recently, I asked the question on my LinkedIn group"What 'antichange' statements you have heard?"

Here are some of the top contenders.  See if you can identify the associated change stage reflected in these statements.   

“If we just ignore it, maybe it will go away.” 

“Just tell them what they want to hear.”

“I guarantee, nothing will change." 

"Let's look at how we've done things in the past."


"Why bother changing? It makes no difference anyway."


"If it ain't broke don't fix it'...but of course, how do you know?"

"Have you checked with corporate? I thought they had delayed implementation."

"Oh dear, this is going to stop everything; the high performers are going to leave in mass."

“Just go with the flow and don't rock the boat.”

"There is no need to reinvent the wheel."

“We'll deal with any problems when and if they come up.  After all they might never be issues then we'll have done something for nothing.“

“Don’t worry, nothing ever changes around here.” 


If you're looking to learn more about change management at your company, we invite you to download our latest change management case study.

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Topics: Change Management

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

Joanne T. Flynn heads up the human capital advisory group, Phoenix Strategic Performance, Inc. Previously, she was a Managing Director with Phoenix Group International and was Vice President / Director of Global Learning and Development at Goldman, Sachs for nine years. Joanne works with organizations as they face global growth and competitive challenges. She works with her clients to be both externally focused and internally responsive. With her unique background, she aligns competitive strategic efforts with related internal organizational leadership challenges. With the benefit of her career-long focus, Joanne contributes the unique insight of aligning strategy to internal organizational structure and process. She focuses on human capital relative to strategic initiatives, accelerated business growth, value creation, and business development. Joanne holds a Master of Arts degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she holds a double degree major in History and German from St. Elizabeth University, as well as certificates from a variety of leading universities and professional training and development organizations. Joanne has recently published her latest book, Accelerating Business Success, The Human Asset Management Strategy.

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