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8 Tips for Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change

by Elizabeth Dukes on January 25, 2016
iOFFICE Hummingbird: A Leading Workplace Experience Platform

Today’s workplace is made up of four different generations. Some are rooted in more traditional values and work ethics while others are a product of the technological revolution. This poses a unique challenge for company leaders, especially in the area of organizational behavior during change management.

Learning how to overcome resistance to change is an inevitable part of business. When communication styles vary, generational stereotypes create collaborative barriers. Trying to bring everyone together to accomplish one goal and overcoming resistance to change can often feel like trying to mix oil with water.

But these challenges cannot prevent businesses from adapting. After all, change is the only way to survive in the quickly evolving marketplace. Therefore, leaders must pay attention to changes in organizational behavior, find ways to bring their employees together, and overcome employee resistance to change.

How to Overcome Resistance to Change

Here are eight tips to help positively impact organizational behavior and foster teams that are more agreeable and adaptable:

  • Expect Resistance
  • Nix Generational Prejudices
  • Encourage Camaraderie
  • Identify the Root Cause of Resistance
  • Involve Executive Leadership
  • Communicate Effectively
  • Do Change Right the First Time
  • Leverage the Right Technology

1. Expect Resistance

It’s unrealistic to assume every change you implement will be unanimously welcomed, accepted and supported by all staff members. You know the saying, prepare for the worst, hope for the best? Have a plan in place to address pushback, including positive reinforcement and consequences that are clearly communicated and understood by all staff members.

2. Nix Generational Prejudices

Change requires successful collaboration, and it’s extremely difficult to get generations to work well with one another if they disagree with another's work style. Management can help the situation by actively looking for instances where two employees are butting heads, and intervening to help bring understanding and compromise to the situation in order to promote positive organizational behavior. It’s also important during the hiring process to recruit individuals who support the company culture you wish to create.

3. Encourage Camaraderie

Overcoming resistance to change with employeesTeams work better when they understand one another on a somewhat personal level. To cultivate a strong company culture with beneficial organizational behavior and foster deeper connections between employees, create opportunities for your staff to socialize that doesn’t involve work.

Happy hours, company-sponsored events, group outings, and clubs are excellent ways to bring people together, regardless of age or professional title.

4. Identify the Root Cause of Resistance

There are many telltale signs that staff members are resisting change. They may complain more than usual, miss key meetings, or bluntly refuse to participate in new initiatives. It’s important to recognize when resistance is becoming an issue for organizational behavior, but it’s even more important to understand why your employees are pushing back in the first place. The most common causes of resistance include:

  • Lack of awareness about why changes are being made
  • Fear of how change will impact job roles
  • Failed attempts at change in the past
  • Lack of visible support and commitment from managers
  • Fear of job loss

By identifying why employees are resisting change, you can better decide how to overcome resistance to change head-on. If lack of awareness or fear is the problem, greater communication and discussion groups may help support more positive organizational behavior. If change has failed in the past, and employees aren’t confident this time will be different, you can discuss specific ways the organization has learned from its mistakes and how it plans to use this insight to successfully implement new initiatives.

5. Involve Executive Leadership

You cannot successfully implement change without support from all levels of business. Your employees take cues from the executive team, and if leadership doesn’t adhere to the plan for change management, it’s very likely your organizational behavior will change either. Encourage company leaders to set an example, and the rest will follow.

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6. Communicate Effectively

By clearly and concisely explaining why the change is taking place, how it will impact each employee’s job, and exactly what is expected of each employee before, during, and after rollout — nothing is left to question.

But simply stating the obvious isn’t enough. Leaders need to make a conscious effort to speak to individuals in the way they prefer. To this end, make certain communication technologies are in place for those who wish to utilize them. It’s also important not to discount how quickly older generations have adapted to technology. Sometimes, all they need is a little training to feel more comfortable using new tools.

7. Do Change Right the First Time

Failed attempts to change aspects of your organizational behavior will have a negative effect on how employees view future initiatives. If you’re going to make a change, make sure you’re doing everything in your power to ensure it’s successful and set realistic timelines. Many companies fail to successfully implement change because they overload employees and expect near-immediate gratification. The reality of change management boils down to one fact: It takes time.

Break the initiative down into stages and guide employees through the process to ensure, at each mile marker, adaptations are unfolding correctly to support the next stage of change.

8. Leverage the Right Technology

How to overcome resistance to change The open-systems approach theory of organizational behavior holds that an organization is impacted by its environment because they exchange information, energy, or resources.

The most successful work environments are those that are proactive, responsive, and intuitive. With proper customization, implementation, training, and support, technology can actually help bridge gaps between employees and departments and lead the way to positive organizational behavior.

Consider implementing workplace and office management software to streamline processes and optimize assets. Adopt mobile software to provide your workforce with more freedom and flexibility. Invest in the latest communication and collaboration tools to encourage your employees to interact and work with one another in new ways. Finally, choose to partner with an office solutions provider you can trust to provide quality service from start to finish.

When your office is agile, adaptable and equipped to handle change, your employees will be, too. 


Remember, diversity is powerful, especially when supported in the correct way. Put these tips to the test and start molding a company culture that celebrates its differences and embraces change. By planning ahead, knowing how the context of the workplace impacts organizational behavior, listening to employees, and setting them up with the right tools and technologies, you can help them learn how to use each other’s strengths and weaknesses to overcome challenges and become more accepting of change.

Change is never easy, but it's inevitable.

Want more tips on managing change in the workplace? Watch a recording of our webinar featuring a conversation with Emily Klein, Director of Workplace at Perkins&Will, and Dr. Melissa Steach, I-O Psychologist and Workplace Wellbeing Lead at Herman Miller Group.

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