Three Ways We Make Resistance More Frustrating Than It Really Is

Recently, I posted Eight Telltale Signs of Resistance, in which I described some of the resistant behaviors people use to slow down or prevent change from happening. When we’re trying to implement change and we encounter these resistant behaviors, we often have three unhelpful responses that make it seem even more frustrating than it really is.Antique Retro Mirror

  1. We take it personally. After all, it seems like an attack on something that we believe is important or even on ourselves. It can feel like rejection, and we can become defensive. And then the change becomes a battle to win, instead of something to collaborate on together with the person who is resisting.
  1. We blame them for not changing. We fall victim to what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error. We tend to attribute others’ behaviors to their character, even though if we did the same thing, we would tend to attribute our behavior to our circumstances. So, we tell ourselves that people are resistant to change, or that they’re just being stubborn, even though if we were in the same situation, we would say we had a valid reason to resist change. Since it’s much harder to change someone’s personality than to change their circumstances, it seems like they are entrenched more than they really are.
  1. We focus on making them stop their resistant behavior. Because what they’re doing frustrates us, we try to make it stop. If someone is avoiding us, we track them down. If they’re making excuses, we come back with all the counter-arguments. If they’re pushing back, we strengthen our position. If someone is procrastinating, we remind them to the point of nagging about getting it done. Sometimes we get their boss involved. We try to overcome the resistance. The problem with this approach is that addressing the resistant behavior only serves to make resistance stronger, because the resistant behavior is only the symptom of the problem, and not the real issue. The real problem is the underlying condition that prompted the behavior in the first place — the fear of the unknown, or the lack of clarity, or disillusionment, or loss of control, to name a few. Unless we alleviate the underlying cause of the resistance, it will only become more entrenched.

When you encounter what seems to be a resistant behavior, take a step back to assess the situation as objectively as you can. Ask yourself a few questions:  How is their resistant behavior affecting me personally? What story am I telling myself to explain their resistance? What have I been doing that may be making the situation worse? And what else may be going on that could explain their behavior? When you understand the experience of the change from their point of view, then you have something you can effectively deal with, and you’re better equipped to help them navigate the change.

Enclaria Gains Qualified Education Provider™ Status from ACMP

acmplogoI’m pleased to announce Enclaria recently gained the Qualified Education Provider™ status from the Association of Change Management Professionals® (ACMP®) for its upcoming Fundamentals of Change Management course. ACMP’s goal is to advance the discipline of change management, and Enclaria is eager to contribute its part in developing skilled practitioners who design and influence change at work.

The QEP status signals that this course aligns with ACMP’s Standard for Change Management© and adult education best practices. As it is a generally accepted approach to change management, aligning to ACMP’s Standard provides a solid base for change management education and knowledge. The Fundamentals of Change Management course also adheres to best practices in instructional design and delivery, ensuring participants have an opportunity to apply what they learn.

For those seeking ACMP’s Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP™) accreditation, taking the QEP course will ensure a quicker review process for your application as well as help you prepare for the related CCMP exam when it becomes available.

You’ll hear more about the Fundamentals of Change Management course in the coming months. For now, mark your calendar for September 28-30, 2015 in Atlanta!

Eight Telltale Signs of Resistance

The dictionary definition of resistance is: Any force that slows down or prevents motion. So, naturally we define resistance to change as any force that slows down or prevents change.

brick wall

The funny thing is that we don’t really detect resistance unless people aren’t changing as quickly or as enthusiastically or as smoothly as we expect. Otherwise we would think that everything is fine. But instead we see behaviors that we interpret as people digging in their heels, trying to keep change from happening, and we label it Resistance.

Because people are creative about pushing back without being obvious, resistant behaviors take many forms. How many of these behaviors have you encountered?

Refusal to Change

We most associate resistance with the person who pushes back and refuses to change. While it’s the most obvious, since there’s a risk of being labeled as “not a team player,” it’s not the most common way to resist change.


Some people will implement the change, and then when no one is paying attention anymore, they’ll slide back to their old routine over time.


Some people seem to implement the change just fine, but they’re hiding the fact that they’re also still doing it the old way. They duplicate their work, in case the new way doesn’t work out, then they’ll be safe or even be a hero for not fully switching over.


Others have a never-ending supply of excuses for why they can’t do it or why it won’t work. Even if you’re able to bat one excuse down, they’ll come up with another reason.


Some people agree to change, and may even be enthusiastic about it, but they never seem to get around to doing it. They keep procrastinating and putting it off.


Others, when they find out you’re implementing change, will avoid you altogether. They hope if they hide long enough the project will pass by without affecting them.

Malicious Compliance

Some people will implement the change exactly the way you specify, without making any decisions on their own. When the change fails (and somehow they make sure it does), they blame you when things go wrong.

Going Rogue

And then there are those who will take the change and run with it in a totally different direction. Yes, they’re changing, but by the time they’re done, they end up somewhere you didn’t intend them to go.

Did you recognize anyone in this list? How about yourself? The truth is we all have these resistant behaviors in our bag of tricks we use to better control our own situations. While we see others’ resistance as frustrating when we’re trying to influence change, when it’s our turn to resist, we think we have a good reason for it.

Next time you encounter one of these resistant behaviors, take it as a cue to become curious about the other person’s experience of the change. Once you find out what’s prompting their behavior, then you’ll have a better chance of reducing their resistance.

Ten Types of Organizational Change

Organizational change, or the change that happens at work, encompasses many different types of projects. While the general approach to influencing change is similar across projects, the specific details of how you implement each project will depend on what you’re trying to change. The first step towards customizing your change management approach is defining your change.

toolsTo help you identify the type of change you’re implementing, here are ten examples of organizational change projects. Do you see yours on the list?

Increasing Engagement

In order to improve results, a manufacturer sought to involve more people in developing and implementing creative solutions. They empowered those most affected by the problems to come up with solutions, and fostered a team-based process improvement approach.

Starting Up a New Product or Service

A non-profit organization developed a new way to engage volunteers. The change impacted how the organization worked with outside partners and with the community. Internally, they worked to adopt and integrate the new service into the organization.

Executing Strategy

Based on a recent history of poor results, a manufacturer defined a new strategy to turn around the financial performance of the company. With a new vision and a plan for how the organization would work together to achieve it, they rallied to help the company succeed.

Moving Locations

An electric utility moved its employees from many disparate locations to one brand new central facility. While the move was meant to save on costs, they also wanted to improve collaboration and instill a one-team mentality.

Installing Systems

The HR and finance groups within a university installed a new software system to automate tasks and have better information for decisions. At the same time, they centralized their functions and standardized processes across dozens of departments.

Developing Teams

A department of strong individual contributors struggled to work together as a team. To end blame and bickering, they came together to find their common goals, to discover each other’s strengths and personalities, and to learn how to communicate effectively.

Adopting a Process Framework

An airline adopted Lean Six Sigma concepts to increase agility and reduce waste across the operation. Employees applied new ways of working that ran counter to what is considered the “normal” way of doing things. (Agile software development would be another example of a process framework.)

Reorganizing and Redefining Roles

To push decision-making authority closer to the customer, a restaurant chain modified its franchise management structure, redefining roles and responsibilities across its many locations.

Shifting Culture

After an industrial accident illuminated an insufficient focus on safety, a manufacturer installed state-of-the-art safety equipment and pursued a safety culture in which safe behaviors and decisions were made above all else.

Implementing a Change Management Approach

To ensure the desired results of changes were achieved, a large company implemented a deliberate and people-centric approach to change. They provided project managers with the tools to design and influence change, and equipped department managers to be leaders of change.

When you set out to implement change at work, it helps to be able to describe the change succinctly. What result are you trying to achieve, and what needs to change in order to accomplish it? Once you define the change, it becomes easier to communicate what you’re trying to do, and the path forward becomes more clear.

How would you describe your change project? Does it fit into one (or more) of these categories, or would you add another?