14 reasons why people resist change in healthcare organizations

As you lead change, it is worth considering the many reasons people might resist your change initiative. If you know the reason or reasons behind their resistance, you can often come up with ways to get the other person on your side.

  1. Your argument for change has a logical flaw or is not supported by the data.
  2. Your case for change might be strong but you are presenting it in a way that is unclear or that goes over the head of employees.
  3. Your team is not presenting the case for change in a consistent manner. As one CEO stated, “Some members of my team are going rogue with messaging.” Employees are getting conflicting messages.
  4. People understand the case for change that you are making, but there is not enough of a sense of urgency.
  5. Leadership is not seen as credible. People are willing to follow you to the point of demonstrating compliance per their job description, but not to the point of showing personal commitment.
  6. Not enough opinion leaders in the organization have embraced the change to reach a tipping point of perceived acceptance/social proof.
  7. People have not been given enough time to say goodbye to the current situation. Per William Bridges’ work on transitions, they have not processed the ending, and so they are not ready to proceed to the middle phase or the new beginning.
  8. People have fears about losing power, status, financial security, not having the right skills, or learning new things. It is hard to uncover these fears because people usually hide them.  They often voice their fears in the form of publicly supporting the change while quietly doing nothing or sabotaging it; or by hiding their fear in the form of logical objections.
  9. The organization has a pattern of announcing a change, having the senior leaders leave, and abandoning the change — which creates a workforce that believes they can ride out a change initiative.
  10. People have common limiting beliefs in their thinking like being stuck in the past or all-or-nothing thinking. For instance, “We have tried this before and it didn’t work” or “Every time we try a big initiative the clinical staff derails it.”
  11. There is a personal agenda getting in the way. For instance, at one organization, the CFO was actively undermining the COO’s change initiative. Both were competing to take over the role of CEO, and the CFO did not want the COO to succeed.
  12. Some people are more loyal to a group that happens to be against the change. Until the leaders of that group are persuaded that the change makes sense, the entire group will resist that change.
  13. We have seen more than once case in which a leader in the healthcare organization holds a personal grudge against the change leader and will resist anything that helps the change leader be successful.
  14. The organization has so many competing priorities that people can’t get focused on this particular change initiative and progress suffers. Here, people aren’t resistant so much as overwhelmed and spread too thin. Until leadership decides to focus on a few manageable priorities, change won’t happen.