Why do people resist change? Could you describe for me the importance of change management in a business organization?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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People really have two opposing needs, the need for change and the need for stability. In each of us, these are opposing forces, with some of us craving more change and others of us craving more stability. As long as we are making the choices for one or the other, this does not usually present any difficulties. It is when change is imposed by some external force that it begins to cause problems. And this manifests strongly in the business world.

A good manager manages change in an emotionally intelligent way, understanding that changes imposed upon employees are upsetting to them.  If the changes are not introduced properly, it harms the employees and the business.  People are fearful of change they cannot control. They are afraid they will lose their jobs, afraid they will not be able to navigate successfully through the changes, afraid of the disruption of relationships, afraid of the unknown.  This makes them resist change.

The best way to manage change is with transparency, consensus, and support.  People need to be informed of changes well in advance, so they can adapt and so they are not operating on misinformation or no information at all.  The winds of change somehow are always felt, and a manager who tries to conceal them is foolish.  False rumors begin and fear is enhanced.  A coherent plan for change needs to be presented and input from employees on the plan should be sought. The more people have an opportunity to present their own suggestions on a change to be made, the more they will feel some ownership of the change.

Training should be offered whenever changes involve people having to master new skills.  Work standards should be relaxed while people acclimate to the changes and learn new skills, processes, and procedures. If a manager continues to crack the whip during a period of change, he or she will find that not only will people not be as productive as usual for a while, but also, their resistance will cause them to be even less productive than they could be. 

In today's world, change is a constant. New technologies emerge, companies are bought or merged, functions are outsourced, and managers and employees come and go.  To help people do their best in periods of change, good management is essential.  We can emphasize what will remain stable, provide all the information necessary, build consensus, and support employees, minimizing their fears, and presenting the change in a positive a way as possible.

Three primary reasons for resistance when businesses implement change are (1) changes to work responsibilities or production systems; (2) extra demands made by change project on top of already heavy workloads and loaded schedules; (3) absence or insufficiency of opportunity, tools, information and avenues of communication, especially input on the direction and substance of change projects.

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