Eliminate Resistance to Change by Understanding Yourself and Others First | Learning & Development | Primeast

Why do employees resist change?

When asked why do employees resist change, all answers lead to their emotional response. Any change naturally shifts a person out of their comfort zone. Whether the change is personal (moving house or a new baby, for example) professional (perhaps a change of job or promotion), or organisational (maybe a new work process or company merger), you can expect an emotional response from your employees.

The importance of emotional intelligence in change leadership

It’s the emotional response that dictates the level of resistance to change. In the business world, the business case for change, the new systems, and processes are the easy part of change management. The difficulty lies in gaining the buy-in of your employees. You may be asking them to change a routine that they have known for their entire working life. For some, this will cause enormous emotional distress.

Effective change leadership hangs on being able to manage emotions – both your own and those of your employees. It’s not what happens during a change process, it’s how you respond and how you manage the responses of others that determines success or failure. If you can’t handle the emotional response, resistance will grow, and change is almost bound to fail.

Lack of emotional intelligence is why change management fails

There have been numerous studies into why change management fails. In the October 2014 McKinsey Quarterly, it was noted that “transformational change initiatives have a dismal track record”. John Kotter’s studies consistently showed that around 70% of organisational change projects fail.

The failure of leadership teams to grasp the importance of emotional intelligence as the key to tackling resistance to change is increasingly accepted as the reason behind the poor change effectiveness statistics. Yet still, project and change management teams tend to concentrate on the process of change, rather than the psychology of change.

When you embark on any change program, you are not only asking your people to change the way they work, but the way they think about work. You’re asking them to change their routines, their behaviors, and perhaps even to re-evaluate their values and beliefs. These elements are embedded in a collective culture, as well as individual mindsets. 

Effective organisational change cannot be made without changing the behavior of individuals.

To change behavior, you must understand behavior

Old-style carrot-and-stick management simply doesn’t work in the modern workplace. People rebel. They resist change. They may change the way they do things for a while, but soon you’ll find they slip back into the old routines.

The key starting point to changing this dynamic of transformational change is understanding how you and others react in different situations. Only then can you begin to influence and persuade the behavioural change that is necessary to shape alignment of beliefs to the change program. Without this, cognitive dissonance will continue to flourish and wreck your change initiative.

Increase your self-awareness to understand others better

The art of influence and persuasion lies in the ability to interact with others. The higher your emotional intelligence, the better this ability will be. To develop your emotional intelligence, it is first necessary to have a deep understanding of yourself. What is your personality, how do you react in different situations and to different people, and how do you approach people?

An emotional intelligence appraisal will identify the skills required to manage your own emotions as well as those of others. This will give insight of your emotional strengths and weaknesses, and enable you to develop the skills to:

  • Empathize and communicate effectively
  • Manage the stress change creates
  • Manage relationships with employees and between colleagues
  • Help others to manage their emotional responses
  • Manage resistance to change

You might also like to read our article which details three things you can do today to develop emotional intelligence.

Leaders with highly developed emotional intelligence lead change more effectively. To discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp and coaching in consulting and facilitating will help your organization and leaders produce lasting change, contact Primeast today. 

Join our community of learners and leaders

Subscribe to receive updates on service launches, articles and free learning and development resources