When people feel pressure to Change and they feel pressure Not to Change they resist Change!
Have you ever wondered why people often resist change, especially when they know it’s for their own good? If you’re intrigued by this paradox, this article will shed some light on this fascinating aspect of human behaviour.
We are about to delve into the human tendency to resist change, despite understanding its necessity for personal and professional growth. The exploration is based on two fundamental questions: “Why change?” and “Why not change?” The answers to these questions reveal our deep-seated needs for satisfaction, security, and growth.
I have asked this question thousands of times in coaching sessions and workshops.
Here is a sample of the answers I have received:
- “To get more out of life”
- “So I can look at problems from multiple angles”
- “Changing my mindset is part of the learning and personal improvement process”
- “To keep growing”
- “To be better personally and professionally”
- “To make change less painful and be able to accept it easier”
- “Because I want to grow and help others grow”
- “Change is the only constant”
- “Fulfilment in life”
- “True happiness”
- “To reach and exceed my potential faster”
- “To be the best version of me I can be”
- “So I can better communicate with others”
- “To make conversations more positive and enjoyable”
- “To be able to adapt to the changing situations of my clients”
- “To work better with a team”
- “To become a better version of myself”
- “To progress”
- “To adapt to other changes”
- “So I can be better than I am now”
- “To find new possibilities”
- “To improve my capabilities”
- “To improve myself”
- “To become a better person”
- “To be more agile”
- “To be happier”
- “To be better support to my team”
- “To live a full life”
- “My current mindset is not serving me to the fullest”
- “So I can be the best version of myself”
- “To better evolve mindset in a company”
- “To achieve future goals”
- “To find a long-term healthy balance between work and personal growth”
If you sit with theses responses for a while you will see that they are all about improving satisfaction.
Why not Change?
Again, I have asked this question thousands of times in coaching sessions and workshops.
Here is a sample of the answers I have received:
- “It is easier”
- “Less conflict”
- “Stay in the comfort zone”
- “Less work”
- “It feels safe”
- “Remaining stagnant is counterproductive to growth”
- “I’m too scared”
- “Happy in the status quo”
- “Comfort in what you know… it is easier to do nothing”
- “Being stuck”
- “You might be comfortable in that space”
- “Predictable results.. Even if it is not ideal”
- “Tall Poppy Syndrome”
- “Easy to stay where you are than step outside”
- “It’s familiar”
- “Change is painful”
- “To maintain my identity”
- “I don’t want to face the unknown”
- “It feels safer”
- “There is less risk”
- “Less work”
- “It is predictable”
- “It is stable”
If you sit with these responses for a while you will see that they are all about maintaining your security.
So, now we see the very human needs of satisfaction and security.
The Common Objective
What do we have if we meet our need for satisfaction and our need for security?
Here is a sample of responses:
- “I can be better than I am now”
- “Perpetual growth”
- “A positive outcome”
- “Peace of mind”
- “Emotional wellness”
- “Good life”
- “Stable growth”
- “My best life”
- “No limits”
- “Best version of me”
- “Fearless growth”
- “Ability to develop and grow without constant worry”
- “Self care”
- “Self actualization”
In 1995 an organisational psychologist by the name of Efrat Goldratt developed a diagram that shows the relationship between change, security and satisfaction. She claimed “happiness at work” was the common objective.
Efrat was exploring this idea of change in a work context.
The diagram, called an Evaporating Cloud reads … in order to have happiness at work there needs to be satisfaction at work and, in order to have satisfaction at work people want to embrace change.
But, in order to have happiness at work people need security at work and, in order to have security at work people resist change.
Anybody who has ever tried to manage a change initiative or restructuring will be familiar with this conflict. What happens when people embrace change and resist change at the same time? Well, the short answer is Conflict. When there is Conflict there is less happiness at work and we get stuck in a bind.
The Growth Conflict
But, looking at the list of responses above I think it goes much deeper than happiness.
At a more generic level the commonality in the list above is growth. To me, as a developmental psychologist, this makes a great deal of sense. The old adage, if you are not growing you are dying, rings true.
Another important distinction from Efrat’s Cloud is the placement of “resist change”. When we feel pressure to Change and we feel pressure Not to Change people Resist change. Resistance lies between change and not change.
Until recently I thought that Growth might be as deep as it would get. That was until I realised that Security was related to the development of our Identity and Satisfaction was related to our sense of Being. The commonality between our sense of Identity and Being is Dignity.
“Our universal yearning for dignity drives our species and defines us as human beings.”Donna Hicks, Ph.D.
In her book Leading with Dignity: How to create a culture that brings out the best in people Donna Hicks reflects that dignity is our highest common denominator and yet, we know so little about it. She explains that when she asks people what dignity means to people they usually say that dignity is respect. Donna argues that dignity is more than respect, it is an attribute that we are born with – it is our inherent value and worth.
When people’s dignity is under threat and they are unable to grow they resist change.
“In fact the research shows that the single biggest cause of work burnout is not work overload, but working too long without experiencing your own personal development.”Robert Kegan and Lisa L. Lahey
If people want Growth (and the dignity that comes with it) they need Satisfaction. To get more satisfaction people want Change.
But to get Growth people believe they need Security and, in order to get Security people don’t want to Change.
When people want change and they don’t want change they find themselves in Conflict.
This conflict presents itself in individuals, teams and whole organisations. It is a major cause of disharmony, silos and poor performance.
“The largest continuing haemorrhaging cost in every organisation is the time that people are wasting basically protecting and looking out for themselves.”Robert Kegan and Lisa L. Lahey
Learning to manage this conflict is critical to change, continuous improvement and sustainable high performance.
Today’s Satisfaction is tomorrows Security. When you have finished evaporating today’s conflict you will need to start again tomorrow.
That is the nature of growth.
That is how we maintain our dignity.
We provide services that evaporate intra-personal conflict, inter-personal conflict and systemic organizational conflict.