3 reasons your team may be resistant to change – and what you can do about it!

By Karen Amos

I’ve been busy delivering the ‘Managing Change’ session from my Effective People Management programmes these last few weeks.  This is definitely one of those subjects that at first glance seems easy, but is a veritable Russian doll when you start to unpack it.

I recall times throughout my career where change has been well implemented and accepted, indeed embraced by teams and many more times when I’ve just emitted an inward (and sometimes outward) groan when informed of yet another new strategy/change/initiative [delete as appropriate].  On that note, isn’t it strange what a word so positive as ‘initiative’ can invoke such an energy dump in a different context?

Whilst the vast majority of change is instigated with positive intentions – i.e. to make things better – it can so quickly invoke a negative response and be the cause of low staff morale and even increase staff turnover if handled badly.

Here are 3 reasons you may be experiencing resistance to change from your team (or even personally) and a coaching perspective on how to address this…

1.  Your team doesn’t understand why the change is necessary

This is about supporting your team to understand the reason behind the change.  There’s an understandable filter that takes place where information is cascaded down an organisation and people in less senior roles are, often rightly, given less detail than people who are more senior.  I do think we need to treat people as the adults they are though.  To paraphrase  Nietzsche, the person with a ‘why’ can tolerate almost any ‘how’.


Consider the perspectives and experience of your team.  It’s easy to forget as a leader that we have much more information and control than those we manage.  An honest appraisal, including the benefits of the changes and the consequences of not taking this course of action will always be appreciated.  Over time, your teams will accept you’re trustworthy and there’s no game playing going on.  Remember, if there is sensitive information you can’t share, be honest about that too.

2.  People don’t feel involved or listened to

In the midst of all the activity in implementing a new change, time to discuss, consult and more importantly, listen can come a poor second.  Remember that as manager and leader, you naturally have much more control and usually knowledge, about the change.  It’s easy to forget that your team don’t share this.


Hold regular check-ins with your team and allow people to voice their concerns.  It’s understandable that you may not want to seek this out, lest it turn into another ‘moan-fest’, but hearing people out and giving information where needed will prevent people from lagging behind, or at worst being so engaged they decide to leave the organisation altogether.


3.  Your people have ‘change fatigue’

Have you ever stopped to consider that change just seems to be a permanent fixture of working life?  Lots of my clients comment that there’s never a pause to take a breath and reflect and let the changes embed.  It’s either one change, then straight into another, or what’s more usual, multiple changes going on at the same time.  It can be hard for teams and indeed ourselves as leaders, to truly evaluate what the impact of the change is.  With this comes a sense of never quite achieving an end result, leading to frustration and low motivation.


Ensure you consult with your team to build in mini-goals and celebrate progress and ‘wins’ throughout the change process.  Where possible, give people a project, or part of a project to own and champion, in a way that plays to their strengths and things they enjoy if possible.  That way, they can have more autonomy and also see they’ve played a clear part in achieving the overall goal.  Whilst it’s not always possible, be conscious of implementing multiple changes and reduce these where possible to allow new ways of working to embed themselves, even for a short time.  This will then be assimilated into your organisation’s culture and people will be more enthused for the next change.

I hope that helps with a little food for thought regarding change in your setting or organisation.

If you’d like to know more about how we can support your leaders and teams with 1-to-1 or team coaching, or would like to discuss our in-house live, online leadership programmes, you can:

Email us at:  info@bright-bird.co.uk

Or call us: 07714 855757

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.