Understanding Resistance to Change

Earlier today I was writing a paper on dealing with resistance to change in organizations, and it struck me that effective coping with resistance to change almost entirely depends on our understanding of the very essence of resistance. Many of us, who try to change things in our companies, or even industries, lack patience to stop and exercise mere understanding.

In their Toolkit for Organizational Change (2007) Cawsey & Deszca write that the reality is that many people do “seek variety, embrace novelty, and want change.” The problem is often in the fact that the change leader cannot see this in the followers, and perceives everything and anything that could be counter-productive as an expression of opposition to change. These authors also write that “much of what is called ‘resistance’ in others is based on different information, different perceptions, different needs, different beliefs, and the impact of information systems and processes.” In light of this, it is important for the change agent to “understand the dynamics of the situation,” and the perceptions of those with whose help the change can be brought about. Jumping to fast conclusions and dividing followers into the good ones, or those “who support change,” and the bad ones, or those who may on some reasons resist it (or not see the need for it), is one of the main problems of dealing with resistance. Such an approach worsens the situation and, when coupled with a frequently practiced directing and authoritarian leadership styles, leads to an overall inefficiency of the change process.

I am thinking of the scenarios where we, as affiliate marketers intolerant of parasitic and unethical affiliates, become too quickly inpatient of the merchants and/or affiliates who may simply be ignorant of these issues. Many of you do not know this, but the discussion we’ve had in the course of ten days with John T. under my Incentive or Loyalty Affiliates – Definition and Specifics post culminated in tweet where he wrote to me: “Thanks for the education. I’m slowly coming over to your way of thinking ““ at least to a degree.” What greater reward could I seek than words like these?

Let’s try to be more understanding. Righteous anger is good when directed at those that rightly deserve it. Some may be “resistant” on different reasons. Remember that people’s current perceptions are always greater than reality, and addressing those perceptions first is what we need to focus on.

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