How to Address Resistance to Change


Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams.

Often whenever a change is introduced, especially when there is a strong following involved, there is going to be resistance. 

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The study found that a daily step total of just over 4,000 has significant health benefits. Taking more than 7,500 steps provides no significant health gains.

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Savvy change leaders know that these initial stages of concern must be thoroughly addressed for the desired change to take hold.


The reaction to this change wasn’t as dramatic as the reactions to changes to the Zodiac signs or the New Coke debut – but it was shocking, nonetheless.

Organizational leaders can minimize resistance and drama by understanding predictable phases people go through when faced with change.

Common Reactions to Change

Senior leaders typically expect to see this sequence: 1) announce the change, and everyone will 2) implement the change. Change NEVER works out that way.

People go through predictable stages of reactions to change. These stages are individual (individual players will go through each stage at different speeds) and sequential – players will not move to the next stage of concern until their needs have been met at the previous stage. We examine the first three phases in this post.

  1. The first phase is information concerns – people want to know what exactly the change is, why is it needed, how much change at how fast a pace, etc. Once information concerns have been addressed, players will move to the next stage.
  2. The second phase: personal concerns – people want to know how the change will play out for them, what’s in it for them, what will I give up, what will I gain over time, etc. When personal concerns have been addressed – and these concerns can widely vary across a workforce – players will move on again.
  3. The third phase: implementation concerns – people are able to focus on how the change will be put into action, what the plan is, how will people be held accountable, what resources will be available, etc.

Savvy change leaders know that these initial stages of concern must be thoroughly addressed for the desired change to take hold.

How to Help Leaders and Team Members to Embrace Change

There are four basic ordered steps in a change leader’s action plan to help staff embrace a needed change:

  1. Educate – Describe the change fully – or as fully as you can at this stage. Share the business case for the change – what in the business environment is driving this change? What are the costs – time, dollars, customers, opportunity – of not making this change?
  2. Involve – Offer numerous opportunities for staff to examine the change, to suggest how to make the change more efficient, etc. Build buy-in with these conversations.
  3. Embed – Create systemic support for the new behaviors; the change will not endure without systems refinements. With staff involvement, modify delivery systems, performance systems, etc.
  4. Refine – Over time, continue staff involvement to tweak the change (and supporting systems) to enhance the benefits of the new approach(es).


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