Overcoming resistance to change is an opportunity to transform how we view change: facing the unknown with a curious desire to be better.

Overcoming resistance to change can be a challenge to any change initiative. While resistance may pose a challenge in the world of change leadership, resistance isn’t inherently bad. Resistance gives leaders the chance to show their team the need for change. 

Likewise, when faced with resistance to change, leaders have a unique opportunity to transform the way others interpret change: by facing the unknown with curiosity and encouraging others to do the same. 

overcome resistance to changes

In this article, we discuss overcoming resistance to change and the best ways to create sustainable change in the following topics:

  • The Challenge of Top-Down Change
  • Engagement in the Face of Change
  • Creating Contagious Change

The Challenge of Top-Down Change

Promoting top-down change comes as a challenge when it comes to organizational change. The truth is that while top-down changes may start with leadership, buy-in from all parties involved is an essential component of lasting change. 

Consider the following obstacles that result from top-down change management:

1. Low Leadership Accountability

Top-down change leadership can result in a lack of accountability between all members of the organization. Failure to include anyone outside of management in important decisions and initiatives can create this lack of accountability.

As a result of low leadership accountability, team members may feel as though leadership is making decisions for them, and they will easily lose trust in management. Alternatively, organizations can approach change leadership by providing everyone with access to the resources and information necessary to make decisions on their own. This way, leaders and team members share ownership in each decision and strengthen bones of trust and transparency. 

2. A Lack of Constructive Criticism

In your efforts to overcome resistance to change, remember that constructive discussions are an essential part of a healthy decision-making process. If you’re implementing change with limited input from others in your organization, you’re not likely to end up with the best possible outcome. 

Don’t let the threat of constructive criticism limit your change leadership efforts. Constructive criticism can lead to more diverse and creative decision-making. Encourage team members to share their opposing opinions respectfully and use these discussions to inform upcoming changes. 

3. Limited Team Engagement

Approaching change management with only the leadership in mind inherently limits your team’s ability to participate. If members of management are the only decision-makers, all other participants may feel as though their thoughts, feelings, and experiences aren’t validated or valued by the organization. Consequently, failing to acknowledge the input of other stakeholders results in ineffective decision-making

Overcome this lack of team engagement by making an effort to prioritize each participant’s voice. Make it a point to include each member of your organization in the decision-making process before following through with new initiatives. 

Engagement in the Face of Change

Change is inevitable, and so is resistance to it. As such, overcoming resistance to change requires us to approach change management in an entirely new way. Leaders can overcome this resistance by painting the process of opposing change in a positive light. 

Experts in change management agree that employee engagement is the secret ingredient to reacting to resistance in a positive way. Consider the following rules of engagement for change management:

1. Prioritize Effective Communication

Effective communication is at the heart of overcoming resistance to change. Improve communication with your team by staying in constant communication about management’s day-to-day operations as well as any upcoming initiatives that may take place. 

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To make way for change, it’s essential to identify the “why” behind your desire for it. If so, it’s unlikely to last. Is your change aligned with shared values? Does it project a line of sight in a direction you want to head? That’s a promising start.

If big changes are on the horizon, leadership would do well to be straightforward and honest before making any groundbreaking decisions. Likewise, management should encourage further discussion and feedback from employees to promote an environment of transparency and trust.

2. Practice Active Listening

Active listening is another key tool for mitigating resistance to change. Too often, management interprets constructive feedback to change as negative opposition to already-made decisions. The truth is, that in the face of sweeping changes, most employees simply want to have their voices heard. 

Team leaders can engage their employees through active listening by asking questions such as:

  • Are the changes working?
  • How can we improve our new initiatives?
  • Are there any questions or concerns?

In addition to asking such questions, leaders need to ensure that all employee feedback is properly collected, read, and utilized. This way, all stakeholders know that their concerns and questions are heard and understood.  

3. Shrink the Change

The reality is that major change initiatives can be incredibly overwhelming, which can make overcoming resistance to change more challenging than ever. Shrinking the change invites team members to accept and implement change on a smaller scale. By breaking down upcoming changes into slight changes to routine or standards of operation, team members are given the chance to slowly adapt to changes and adopt new ways of working.  

4. Encourage Collaboration

Collaboration is one of the best ways to practice overcoming resistance to change. The collaborative process encourages teams to approach designing change creatively and innovatively. Encouraging team members to collaborate allows each person to share their ideas and any misgivings with the rest of their colleagues. 

Creating Contagious Change

Successfully overcoming resistance to change will completely transform your organization. A company that welcomes change with open arms is eager for the next phase’s new challenges. This eager curiosity is born out of a growing desire to build something new. 

Organizations that routinely practice overcoming resistance to change are in the best position to grow. This endless desire and passion for refining one’s work ethic, workplace, and workforce will result in employees that are just as passionate about change as their leaders are. 

Grow the passion for contagious change with the following practices:

1. Build Excitement for Change

Excitement is a key ingredient in overcoming resistance to change. Even if team members are unsure and apprehensive about new changes, having leaders that are passionate and enthusiastic about the need for change can change everything. Even if the future is unknown, change leaders can mitigate any related fears by remaining resolutely optimistic about all the changes yet to come. This optimistic sentiment will easily shift the rest of the organization’s perspective for the better. 

Change Explorer


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This template helps you and your team acknowledge, process, and ideate ways to explore the change at hand together.

2. Connect Your Culture

Strengthen your company culture by encouraging deeper connections and strong relationships between management and your employees. Creating a culture of connectedness will remind your team that you’re all in this together. While change can bring discomfort, investing in your culture will help your team feel like they are a valued company member. 

Moreover, this connectedness gives each member a sense of community, which is a critical component of creating an environment that is receptive to change.  

3. Design Sustainable Change

Overcoming resistance to change in the long-term starts with a plan for sustainable change. Even when change initiatives are successfully implemented, these new ways of working won’t last long without a solid plan for sustainability. Ensure your next initiative stands the test of time by creating a realistic timeline for change to take place. The more time team members have to adapt to new changes, the more likely these changes are to last in the future.

Designing better change starts with overcoming resistance to change. Do you need design thinking implemented throughout your organization? At Voltage Control, we help leaders and teams thrive through change! 

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