Top 10 reasons people reject change

For some of us, change is exciting, For most people, change is something to fear and for others, it’s terrifying and they will reject change.

So when we need to communicate or engage people about change – whether it’s changing a council planning scheme or launching a new business process – we need to do more than just produce well-written messages.

We need to tackle the underlying reasons why people object to change.

We’ve reviewed some of our biggest change projects – from government restructures to climate adaptation, health reforms, new planning schemes, new infrastructure projects and organisational culture change projects – and we’ve identified 10 reasons people reject change.

1. No one knows why the change is happening

Maybe it’s time pressure or confidentiality or just a lack of communication, but we sometimes forget to clearly explain why change has to happen.

2. The change is too fast or too soon

The Board or the Executive Team might have spent months or years preparing, but the community or our staff are only just hearing about it, and suddenly everything’s about to change.

3. Bad History

“We’re doing everything right now, but no one will let us forget the last time when things didn’t go so well.”

4. They don’t trust us

We are not given trust, we need to earn it. Asking for trust is not enough or people will reject change.

5. People feel they don’t get a say

If people not given any options, have no wriggle room and no chance to help plan their future, they are less likely to work with change and are very likely to resist it.

6. Change for the sake of change

You know the scenario: the CEO changes every 18 months, and every 18 months there’s a major restructure. Change fatigue sets in and you’re fighting what can seem an unwinnable battle.

7. Some people are predisposed to reject change

Some people just don’t like change. They’re hardwired that way. But they are in the minority, so be careful of saying “People just hate change” and behaving that way too!

8. We tell some people, but not all the people

One of the easiest traps to fall into is to appoint a working group or a CRG and assume they will tell others. The truth is so often they don’t tell others unless we give them the expectation that they must, along with the processes, the tools and the support to do the telling.

9. Why bother, we’re too busy

We forget to provide the motivation for people to change. We tell them that if they change their behaviour it will be great for the business, for them, or for society. We expect them to accept our reasons and change what they’re doing. But behaviour change takes more work than that.

10. It’s the wrong time

There are times when communities and staff have other issues to deal with, and your project is never going to cut through. So they’ll reject change. We need to think about the broader context within which we are operating and be realistic: is now the best time, or can it wait?

A well-planned engagement strategy can help to eliminate all these reasons people reject change, make your job much easier, and deliver your project on time!