Flourishing Culture

Five Steps to Overcome Resistance to Change

April 9, 2017

Change is a given in the workplace and it’s occurring at an ever more rapid pace. Organizations have come to the realization that their survival rests in their ability to be nimble, flexible and reconfigurable – getting ahead of the curve so they can capitalize on the next big idea. 

Even though there is an understanding “we need to adapt to survive,” we know that change is hard.  Many of us would rather maintain the status quo than deal with the uncertainty of change. Others have weathered a number of failed change efforts and this failure has fueled their negativity, cynicism and resistance.

It’s been my experience in working with organizations that many “rush to action” without adequate consideration of the “people” factor.  No matter how well intentioned the change initiative, there will be setbacks if the people who are doing the work are not on board.  Not taking the time to address this resistance can impact your ability to meet your project milestones.


So, here are some tips to help your workforce overcome their resistance and embrace the desired change. 


1.  Get some data. Conduct an assessment that gathers both quantitative and qualitative data. Ask the group to define what’s happening now.  No doubt there will be many who recognize that things are not working as they should.  Get the stories and the insights.  Share the data in workshops with employees from all levels of the organization.  Name the resistance, make the case for change and solicit the input of the group to determine what needs to be done to make the implementation successful.

2.  Align leadership.  Leaders, as shapers of culture, cast a big shadow.   To ensure a successful implementation, leadership needs consistent messaging and this messaging needs to move beyond the “how” and the “what” to the “why.”  Carefully crafted messages that make the case for change will help to overcome people's resistance. 

3. Use your influencers.  Identify the people who are on board and give them a platform to effect change.  Make them part of the task teams.  Ask them to develop action plans to overcome resistance in their peer group.

4. Celebrate small wins.  Research shows that mini-wins help keep people motivated.  And the more people see that things are happening, the more likely they are to believe change is possible. To that end, it’s important to scope the plan down and create mini-wins. As Charles Duhigg writes, “Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach” (p. 112).

5. Take time to learn.  Change is messy.  There will be obstacles and mistakes. It’s an iterative process.  So, when there is a mistake, address it.  Process what worked and what didn’t work.  Course correct. Resist the tendency to charge on and go fast.  View mistakes as opportunities to grow and to learn new ways of working together. 


Change is never easy and yet, it is a necessity for today’s organization. Your people count, so plan for the resistance: listen to them, engage them and empower them to make a contribution.You will find this approach is worth your time and energy. It will help you succeed in your current implementation and beyond.


Are you experiencing resistance to change amongst your workforce? 

Find out how you can apply these steps in your organization. Contact me at joyceschroeder@flourishingcultures.com for a free consultation.



Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit. New York, NY: Random House.


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