Reactions to Change in an Organization


To understand common reactions and behaviors regarding change in an organization.

Early Findings

  • The most common reactions to change in an organization are fear, anger, ambivalence, and enthusiasm.
  • Best practices for overcoming resistance to change include effective communication and transparency, developing a thoughtful strategy, and recruiting positive influencers.

Reactions to Change

  • Fear is one of the most common reactions to change in any situation, especially within the workplace. Employees generally fear the loss of their job or the loss of job status. They may also fear the unknown or be concerned about their ability to perform a new job role or task.
  • Anger is also a common reaction to change within an organization. This is attributed to the employee feeling a loss of control over their work environment and a hosility to changing the status quo.
  • Some employees may show ambivalence to change. They take on a by-stander role, remaining passive. However, these employees are open-minded and are willing to adjust.
  • Not all reactions to change are negative, as some employees may embrace it with enthusiasm. They may consider change in the organization a challenge and can visualize the bigger picture.

Behavior Manifestations to Change

  • Fear and anger concerning change in an organization can manifest in negative behavior and attitude.
  • Examples of these negative behaviors include gossping, publicly questioning leadership, verbal criticism, snide or sarcastic comments, and nitpicking details.
  • Negative attitudes toward change can also result behaviors that effect the organization productivity. For example, employees may miss meetings, forget commitments, miss deadlines, miss work, or even resign.

Best Practices for Overcoming Reactions to Change

  • Fear and anger toward change can come from a climate of mistrust in the organization. Effective communication and transparency through all stages of the organizational change can help to alleviate the fear. The communication must be a two-way channel, allowing the employees to give input and feel like they are involved and valued throughout the process.
  • Change agents within the organization must develop a thoughtful strategy for communicating and implementing change. The strategy should include: how the change is going to be communicated to the organization; what steps are going to be taken to implement the change that will result in the least resistance and opposition; milestones and metrics that can be celebrated with the organization to create excitement and encourage employees to continue moving forward.
  • Organiztions should recruit the employees who are enthusiastic about the change as change ambassadors. As peers to the other employees, these ambassadors may be more successful at reaching the "by-standers" and can act as spokespersons on behalf of both sides.

Research proposal:

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