6 Types of Change Resisters That Are Holding Back Progress

Change is essential and inevitable for all organizations, but some people are better at coping with it than others.  Dana Brownlee is the founder of Professionalism Matters, a national corporate consulting company that trains groups to boost team productivity in the workplace.   She identifies six types of change resisters that we must battle in order to move forward with our important initiatives.

1. The “Positive” Change Resister

In group settings they seem positive, but often make passive aggressive comments that are really thinly veiled jabs (I’m sure the new shipping process makes complete sense and I’m fully onboard, but I’m just wondering what we should say if customers complain about longer wait times?)   To minimize their impact: during a group session, ask each person to write their top concern about the change on an index card and ask everyone to pass them to the front of the room for review and discussion.  The key is to encourage those who might complain outside the session to instead voice their concerns in a more constructive fashion.

The “Unique” Change Resister

This is the person who feels that their situation is different.  For some reason, they’re special and shouldn’t change along with everyone else. To minimize their impact: clearly explain how the change impacts everyone and can benefit anyone.  Also, emphasize the importance of everyone’s participation.  (Although some of you may use the system more than others, it will be critical to have 100% compliance.  If everyone does not participate, it will be unwieldy and confusing).

 The “Let Me Be Last” Change Resister

This person is the procrastinating resister.  They’re dipping their toe in the water, watching everyone else jump in and hoping to go last.  They may in fact be quite vocal that they’re only going to change kicking and screaming.  To minimize their impact: set clear deadlines for change acceptance.  If possible, have everyone “take the leap” at once and make the change into a positive celebration.

The “We Need More Time to Study” Change Resister

This person gets caught in analysis paralysis.  They don’t want to make a change until they’ve analyzed every possible scenario and option.  To minimize their impact: clarify that the goal is “directionally correct” but not “perfect”.  Establish a limited time for study/data gathering, and then take decisive action.

The “Cost Justifier” Change Resister

This resister is focused on the cost justification or ROI for the change.  They’re paying attention to the dollars and the cents and feel that if it doesn’t add up, change shouldn’t happen.  To minimize their impact: clarify the reasons for the change early on.  If the rationale is non-monetary, be very upfront about that (Our focus this year is on improving customer service.  As a result, we’re upgrading our vendors and those changes will certainly increase costs, but the anticipated long term benefits are worth the short term costs in our estimation).

The “Incremental Change” Resister                          

This person won’t commit to the full change, but they’ll make incremental steps toward change.  They may not use the new online system for processing their invoices, but they’ll at least sign up for a login and password (and hope the system goes away before full implementation is mandated).  To minimize their impact: clarify the expectations for making the full change very early on.  Eliminate any ambiguity about expectations.  Instead of saying “Staff will be expected to familiarize themselves with the online request system by 1Q 2013″ say “All requests must be initiated through the online request system effective 2/1/13.”

Have you run into any of these Change Resisters?

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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  • http://twitter.com/chrisbonney Chris Bonney

    Alexandra- Really enjoyed this breakdown of change resisters. It’s a great synopsis and gives me a new way to look at (and work with) the people at my company.


    alexandralevit Reply:

    Thank you, Chris! I felt the same way when I first heard these characterizations!


  • Massoud Mirza-zadeh

    Hello, Alexandra Levit; It is a very nice article.
    And there are those wise resistors, that see the enthosiastic leader can not pick two melones with one hand (branching out), and time showed that he was not wrong, when the time came up(Even though he was a lot younger than me).


    alexandralevit Reply:

    Appreciate the analogy, Massoud. Thanks for reading!


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  • Luke Bonner

    This article is great from an employer/manager’s point of view but what about dealing with change made by idiot managers who don’t even understand or know the reason for change, other than “That’s just what we’ve been told to do”.

    I’m all for effective and efficient change, something that makes the system or operation run smoother, but a lot of the time, middle-management-types mistake change for progress.

    The most obvious example of this is to move employees to different desks. This change in configuration is disruptive, disrespectful and simply reminds the employee that “No, you really aren’t in control of your environment at all”. Who wants to work like that?

    If, on the other hand, they said “Look, we’ve spend a few weeks looking into this and we’re just going to move you once because logistically, it makes sense”. That would be different.

    I know what my response will sound like but the fact is, a good 90% of managers are bad at what they do and not qualified to be in that position. They got there because they were good at their previous role (which was a completely different skill set) and so they were moved up into unfamiliar territory.

    That’s my 2 cents worth.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this:



    alexandralevit Reply:

    Hi Luke, this was one of my biggest pet peeves when working in Corporate America, and research suggests that people don’t really mind change when they understand the rationale behind it.


    Luke Bonner Reply:

    Exactly. Most people understand that they’re there to do a job and that’s what they’re getting paid for. It just sucks that mediocrity is so prevalent in every aspect of society.

    The world doesn’t need any more “managers” – the world needs more leaders. So often, with management teams, there’s an “us and them” mentality, and I believe a big part of this comes from companies insisting team members stick to their allotted roles.

    I understand that certain jobs need to get done, but to try to force a living, breathing human being to do the same thing, day in and day out, is ludicrous.

    Change is the only thing that’s constant, and I believe a culture of positive, individual-driven change is the answer. Nobody wants to be told what to do, but entrust that person with the responsibility and freedom to enact the solution themselves and watch the sparks of creativity fly!

    You can’t call a group of people a “team” and then tell them what to do – that’s a dictatorship. You must empower them to fully realise and fully understand that they are all the leader they need.


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