Change Management Blog

Avenues to Resistance Management

January 15, 2024

Talal I. El-Assaad: Specialized Change Management Expertise

Time to Read: 6 Min


What is Resistance and What are the Avenues to Resistance Management

ProClipse Consulting - Prosci partners characterizes Change Management as the methodical application of structured processes and tools designed to steer the human aspects of change towards a successful outcome. Yet, it's not uncommon to see the terms ' Change Management ' and 'Resistance Management' being used interchangeably. This frequent conflation underscores a common experience in organizational transformations, where resistance inevitably surfaces as people adapt to new ways of working. 


While Change Management encompasses a diverse array of tools, strategies, and techniques aimed at navigating the people side of change, a crucial component within Prosci's 3-Phase Process is the formulation of comprehensive Change Management plans. These plans include a specific focus on resistance management, recognizing it as a pivotal element in steering change efforts towards their intended goals.


The why of Resistance:

We have already established the why Change is difficult. Now let us establish the why of Resistance.

Resistance to change is an inherent human response, deeply ingrained in our psychological makeup. It arises naturally, especially during major transitions in organizational environments.

Understanding this resistance is the first step in effectively managing it within the context of Organizational Change Management (OCM).

At its core, resistance is a protective mechanism, a response to perceived threats to stability and familiarity. This instinctual reaction is a result of the brain's preference for known patterns and predictability, making change an uncomfortable and often stressful process.


Resistance Management:

Resistance Management in OCM is not about outright elimination but thoughtful mitigation. Recognizing that resistance is inevitable allows for strategic management tailored to specific organizational dynamics and cultures.


Mitigating the Impacts of Resistance: 

Resistance does not occur in isolation. It's essential to consider both personal and organizational contexts. The comfort found in the Current State often holds significant power, and the transition to a new Future State can bring stress and anxiety. The impact of resistance can be controlled, however, in terms of its duration, cost, and severity. Effective resistance management strategies can significantly reduce these impacts on the change process.


Avenues of Resistance Management

There are two primary avenues in resistance management – Resistance Prevention and Resistance Response, further divided into Proactive and Reactive strategies.

  1. Resistance Prevention:

    Prevention in Change Management begins with the systematic application of processes and tools aimed at effectively managing the human side of change to ensure business objectives are met. This means implementing robust Change Management from the outset.


    Preventive Measures: Entails identifying potential resistance areas and addressing them preemptively. This involves ensuring clear communication, engaging stakeholders from the outset, and understanding the emotional and psychological impacts of change.

    • Engaging Sponsors: Sponsors need to be involved in communicating the change, forming supportive coalitions, and actively participating in the change process.

    • Tailored Communication Plans: Develop communication strategies that are clear and specifically targeted to different audience groups.

    • Empowering Managers: Enable managers to become effective advocates and leaders of change, guiding their teams through the transition.

    • Timely Training: Provide all affected groups with relevant training at the right time to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge.

    • Integrating Change Management with Project Plans: The Change Management plan should be seamlessly integrated with the overall project plan to ensure coherence and alignment.


    Similar to preventive healthcare or fire safety measures, preventing resistance focuses on proactive strategies to foster a conducive environment for change.


    These fundamental elements of Organizational Change Management represent proactive steps to support employees throughout the change process. By adopting a structured approach to Change Management as outlined, we address key employee concerns: understanding the reasons behind the change, what benefits it brings to them, and why they should support it. Having clarity on these points significantly reduces the likelihood of resistance when it’s time to implement the changes.


    While it’s not the sole objective, a significant part of applying effective Change Management revolves around preventing resistance, ensuring smoother transitions and higher acceptance rates.

  2. Resistance Response:

    1. Proactive Response: Involves addressing early signs of resistance through targeted communication, support, and timely adjustments in strategy.


      Proactive resistance management is an essential strategy in change management, aimed at addressing potential resistance before it escalates. This approach involves conducting thorough assessments to tailor Change Management strategies to both the specific change and the organizational context. As part of this strategic planning, it’s important to identify points of resistance that are likely to arise.


      Consider the following scenarios where resistance might be anticipated:

      • History of Failed Changes: If a particular division or group within the organization has experienced a series of unsuccessful changes, skepticism towards new initiatives is likely.

      • Impact on Senior Employees: Changes affecting pension plans, even marginally, may meet resistance from senior employees who are close to retirement.

      • Investment in Current State: Individuals or groups who are deeply rooted in the current state and might be adversely affected by the change are potential sources of resistance.

      • Preference for Different Solutions: A group that previously supported a different solution (Solution A) might resist the adoption of an alternative approach (Solution B).

      • Organizational Restructuring: Changes involving layoffs or staff redeployment are particularly sensitive and almost always trigger resistance.


      The essence of proactive resistance management lies in acting with foresight. Instead of addressing resistance as a post-mortem activity, it's more effective to integrate resistance management into the initial Change Management plans. 


      By anticipating resistance, reviewing the organization's change history, identifying high-risk or significantly impacted groups, and planning proactively, you can mitigate resistance effectively. This approach ensures that resistance is managed before it becomes a major hurdle, streamlining the change process and leading to more successful outcomes.

    2. Reactive Response: Deals with entrenched resistance that has already affected the project. This approach, often more costly and risky, can delay project implementation significantly.


      Resistance is an inherent part of any change process, often surfacing even in the presence of meticulously applied Change Management strategies. Reactive resistance management is about having a plan of action for when resistance inevitably appears.


      The initial step in this approach is pinpointing the root cause of the resistance. Utilizing tools like the Prosci ADKAR Model or the "The Five Whys" exercise can be instrumental in uncovering the underlying reasons for an employee’s or group’s resistance. Understanding these reasons is pivotal to formulating an effective response.


      When facing persistent resistance, a variety of actions can be taken, depending on the situation and the individuals involved. These responses range from engaging in active listening and removing barriers to focusing on clarifying the benefits and outcomes of the change, rather than the process itself. Offering clear choices and outlining consequences can also be effective. In some instances, a more assertive approach might be necessary, such as showcasing the tangible benefits of the change to sway dissenters, or, in extreme cases, considering the reassignment or removal of individuals who are staunchly resistant.


      A crucial aspect of reactive resistance management is empowering those who are best positioned to manage it on the ground. While Change Management professionals orchestrate the overall strategy, they are often not in direct, day-to-day contact with affected employees. This role falls to managers and supervisors who are closest to the employees. However, it's important to recognize that resistance management can be challenging for these individuals. 


      Therefore, it is vital for change leaders to equip managers and supervisors with the necessary tools and support to effectively manage resistance within their teams.


Managing resistance in organizational change is a multifaceted endeavor. It requires a combination of empathy, strategic communication, stakeholder involvement, tailored support, and strong leadership. By exploring these avenues, organizations can effectively manage resistance, paving the way for successful and sustainable change.


Our Change Management approach is grounded in Resistance Prevention and Proactive Resistance Management. We aim to mitigate the impacts of resistance by maintaining awareness of the personal and organizational contexts. By being proactive, we control the duration, cost, and severity of resistance, ensuring smoother transitions and minimized disruptions. Drawing an analogy with fire prevention and healthy living, we emphasize the effectiveness of preventive measures over reactionary ones.


Effective resistance management is crucial for successful organizational change. By focusing on prevention and proactive strategies, we not only manage resistance but also reduce its potential negative impacts, paving the way for a more adaptable and resilient organization. 


Both approaches are crucial for a smooth transition, ensuring that resistance does not derail the change process but is managed and mitigated effectively through thoughtful planning and adaptive response strategies. 

We ensures that change is embraced and sustained, transforming potential challenges into opportunities for growth.

eBooks, Worksheet, Templates and Checklists Change Management


Webinars Change Management


Case Studies Change Management


Need Advise?

Contact Us To Discuss Your Needs And Learn More

Contact Us