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Resistance is Futile [Useful!]

The New Year provides an opportunity to implement changes in your workplace wellness program.

People are looking forward to the year ahead and may even have fresh resolutions.  What better time to realign your workplace wellness program? Because employees are already in “change mode,” changes to wellness plans, assessments, goals or other arrangements should be welcomed with open arms.


Of course, you know the opposite is true. Change, even positive change, likely will inspire resistance. However, resistance to change is not only inevitable, it is also useful.

In physics, the term “inertia” describes a special sort of resistance: the resistance of an object to change. It is perfectly natural.

Expect resistance. Accept resistance. Learn to use resistance as a catalyst for positive change, not an impediment.

It is important to identify different types of resistance to appropriately address it. I like what change management expert Rick Maurer has to say about levels of resistance. 

Level One resistance is the one that most of us expect: an intellectual resistance to the new idea, usually stemming from incomplete knowledge of the idea. "I don’t get it." This occurs when a team member resists the idea on the grounds that it is new or “different from the way it has always "worked" or doesn’t make sense to them in some way. They may have misinformation, missing data or lack some other key component that will better help them understand, adapt and then embrace the change.

At this level, what is important is communication of the idea, to the point of overcommunication. Once these people have been thoroughly educated, they will, in turn, become advocates of the new idea and in a position to educate others. They will own the change.

Level Two resistance involves deeper issues at the professional, interpersonal or personal level, usually emotional. "I don’t like it." In other words, if employees feel they are not valued or have experience that causes them to distrust certain leaders, they will naturally resist an idea, regardless of how well they understand (or even believe in) the need for change. The stressor doesn’t even have to be work related: concerns at home can contribute greatly to an employee’s receptiveness to change.

In other words, it isn’t the idea, it is the emotional environment the employee “lives in” that causes the resistance. With level two resistance, communication is important, but not in the same way as with level one resistance. Instead, what is most important is to address the resistor’s environment.

Level Three resistance goes deep and can be the most problematic if it is misidentified. "I don’t like you!" resistance is the biggest challenge. If team members are historically difficult, have values that conflict with the organization, or simply have goals that are incompatible with the team objectives, it is time to make moves. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the right people in the right places, and to have the fortitude to make that happen.

 Productivity and Resistance to Change Graphic Compressed

So, expect resistance, identify resistance and use that resistance to catapult the organization toward new heights through change.


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