Why Even Our Brains Resist Organizational Change

A cartoon of a business meeting with one saying, "What if we don't change at all and something magical happens?"

Organizational change is resisted mainly because it is at odds with the status quo…you know, the comfortable patterns that we have assimilated and come to master.

Organizational psychologists have taught us that we should expect workers to balk at major change at first. Employees are likely to “fear” the unknown, they are not certain of where they fit into the new picture (or if there is a place for them at all), they may doubt the ability of leadership to effect the new change and they rather like the current situation where they know they can handle the job.

To help us succeed at the process of organizational change, change management consulting experts outline steps to follow that are most likely to win employees over and encourage their commitment to the desired behaviors and goals. They rightfully recommend clear and frequent communication to explain why the change is necessary, to fill in the blanks of how the change will be implemented, to describe how it will affect each employee and to inspire with the overall vision.

Recently, however, psychologists who focus on how neuroscience explains organizational behavior have joined the discussion. They shed additional light on why we naturally resist change. Our brains are actually designed to fight change for two reasons:

1. Brains are essentially lazy.
They prefer the tried and true routines. That’s why changing habits is so difficult. Our brains compare the new way with the old way and find the old way far easier because the patterns have already been learned and are familiar.

Think about how easy your commute has become. You barely have to think about the route or even the mechanics of driving the car. But when you need to rent an unfamiliar car and drive in unknown territory, it requires a lot more energy to focus and get you safely and efficiently to your destination.

2. Brains naturally respond to change with fear.
In her work on positivity, Barbara Frederickson, professor and Principal Investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab (PEPLab) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that positive emotions broaden one’s perspective and encourage building new skills; but negative emotions do just the opposite. Our thinking is constrained and decisions become difficult to make.

What can we do to alleviate these reactions? Here are two foundational suggestions from change management consulting experts:

• Strategic Clarity.
Be crystal clear about why the change is needed and give employees as much information as possible. The less their brains have to work to understand the rationale for change or to figure out where they fit in the change process the better. Brains struggle with uncertainty. Give them a break and answer all questions as best you can. Accurate information will give them some sense of control. Strategic clarity is the critical first step.

• Plan and Part.
Employees want to know the game plan and the specific part they are expected to play. Recognize that you are asking brains to think in a new way. Let employees know just what roles they will play in the new scenario so they can begin to think positively about the future and make necessary adjustments bit by bit. Be patient. Organizational change takes time and is often a bumpy road.

Benchmark your change initiative to see where you stand.

Download a free leadership change management toolkit.

Share:
Facebook Twitter Google+ Email LinkedIn
Files under:  

Comments are closed.

What a personal and professional pleasure it has been to Partner with LSA. They are truly a strategic partner with Wyse. For more than 5 years, LSA has been engaged in delivering various training and development solutions for Wyse, from custom on-site programs targeting specific core competencies, to working individually with clients to build job skills, and offering invaluable services to me and my team as we continue to build our learning programs. LSA’s representatives do more than sell a product, they offer a full service solution: they understand our business, our strategic initiatives, and the needs of our customers.

Jeff Rangel
Director of HR

Hyperion has a commitment to lifelong learning. LSA helps us provide the right business sales training, management training programs, and leadership development programs at the right time to meet the needs of both individuals and departments. I especially appreciate their ability to listen to my needs and recommend the appropriate facilitators, solutions and content.

Sarah Parks
Senior Project Manager

Hyperion

Working with LSA Global has proven to be extremely valuable and worthwhile. LSA understands our business, has deep expertise in content areas, and tailors the programs to deliver great results. The facilitator was extremely knowledgeable about Working Globally with India and her energy and passion made the session interesting, fun, and enjoyable for all that attended. The participants walked away extremely pleased along with highly useful practices and tools. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company that has partners or offices in India.

Glenn McGillivray
Human Resources Business Partner

Intuit

Thank you to LSA Global for their partnership and support in helping us to design and roll-out our valuable management development training program. I personally have partnered with LSA Global at four of my previous companies. It continues to be a delight working with LSA. We look forward to partnering with them at Blackhawk Networks for future training and consulting needs.

Suzanne Kinner
VP Human Resources

Blackhawk Network

In the Next Generation Management Development courses, I was trained with skills and tools that have made me and my team more productive, motivated, and successful at communicating with other departments.

 

Kevin Ashman
Firmware Engineering Supervisor

I had been working with LSA for many years with my prior company. Currently, I’m with a company who hadn’t done much basic management skills training. After identifying and presenting a program recently, our managers are excited and talking in the halls about the great experience. LSA saves us time in delivering the right training for our needs.

Phyllis Moracco
HR Director

LSA is an instrumental training outsourcing partner in helping us to build management capacity and strategically invest in our people. Their flexibility, depth, and breadth of expertise allows us to deliver top quality solutions that are directly tied to key business plans. Their ability to custom design, deliver, and evaluate our Management Curriculum has been excellent. They are true business partners and a pleasure to work with.

Margaret M. Mader
Vice President, Human Resources

Hyperion

PalmSource has found our relationship with LSA extremely beneficial. We worked closely with LSA to customize the right Management Training Program solution to meet our unique business needs. LSA is a quality organization, one that I’d recommend to any company looking for a first class training and consulting partner.

Ken Boehm
Vice President of Human Resources

Each program is preceded by an assessment of the participants. The course is then designed to fit the specific parameters and needs of the group. The highly interactive delivery is provided by recognized experts in their fields. On the spot coaching is provided during the program and each participant receives individual follow-up after the course. Courses can be delivered in-person or virtually. Given the nature of Cisco’s business and the way we operate, these remote workshops are a must for anyone who joins our company. Their work is eye opening. Great content and fantastic delivery.

Frank J. Kuypers
Business Development Manager

SeaTel has found our partnership with LSA Global to be very valuable and beneficial. We turned to LSA to customize a supervisory/leadership solution to meet our needs. LSA delivered a customized top quality solution. I’d recommend LSA Global to any company looking for a best-in-class training and consulting partner.

Kortney Riddle
HR Manager

LSA’s customized Effective Presentation Skills program has helped me elevate my presentation skills to the next level. I now have a much greater self-awareness of my presentation skills and can leverage off of my strengths while working to improve upon other areas. I would definitely recommend this solution to anyone for whom business presentations are an integral part of their job.

Jim Elliott
Senior Marketing Manager

Samsung

We recently partnered with LSA Global to offer our Supervisors and Managers a customized two-day management training program. Everyone who attended said it was by far the best management training program they had ever attended. The content was rich and highly interactive. The case studies were relevant. Each participant walked away from the training much better equipped to lead their teams.

Jeff Coon
Director of Human Resources

LSA exceeded all my expectations. We interviewed 7 potential training and consulting partners and selected LSA due to their expertise, flexibility, and breadth and depth of solutions. We were able to construct a management training course from the modules most appropriate to our needs, and are able to provide additional training from their well developed portfolio of experts. Our managers galvanized as a team throughout the session and are better prepared for the rigors of a competitive market.

Mitch Mandich
CEO

Edify

LSA has been a tremendous asset to my portfolio, both at my current company and my past company. As an HR leader, I am always looking for ways to find external resources that can provide a solution to our management training needs. LSA does that for me. Their solutions are presented in a much more leadership-oriented manner so as to be crisp, business relevant, and easy to apply right back on the job. I will continue to augment our programs using LSA solutions.

Ken Boehm
VP of Human Resources

LSA’s Employee Engagement Consulting and Survey work has provided critical visibility into: how well our people are holding up under the general economic environment, as well as, the specific challenges that face biotechnology companies in their efforts to discover and develop new medicines; their level of alignment and commitment to XOMA’s Vision and mission critical strategies; how leadership practices and management systems support an environment that engender commitment, and the specific actions that our leaders can take to improve on areas that are important to our people. I highly recommend LSA’s employee engagement solutions.

Chris Wells
Vice President, HR and IT

Evaluate your Performance

Toolkits

Toolkits

Download key published insights and tools from industry experts highlighting best practices in the areas of talent, strategy and culture.

More

Health Checks

Health Checks

Want to know how you stack up against leading organizations?  Receive a complimentary benchmarking analysis courtesy of an LSA Expert.

More

Whitepapers

Whitepapers

Get up to speed on timely solutions critical to your business. Published by LSA Experts based upon client feedback and key industry trends.

More

Methodology

Methodologies

First we identify the key metrics you want to improve. Then we assemble a dedicated team of elite experts who have successfully solved similar problems with similar clients.

More

Blogs

Stay up to do date with the latest information on how we help high growth companies align their culture and talent with strategy.

More

Case Studies

Client Case Studies

Real world consulting and training approaches from LSA projects, providing insights on how your company can outperform the competition.

More