Barriers to Organizational Change

One of the biggest barriers to organizational change is dealing with people's emotions. Here's how you can navigate this potential minefield.

Have you read Part 1 of this two-part article?. So far we've discovered the first four emotions that are likely to present barriers to your organizational change program implementation. Let's take a look at the next four.

These next four emotions are possibly the hardest to manage and to live through!


While denial (which we looked at previously) is often something you do alone. When you become angry then often everyone knows about it. You may show your anger by active and/or passive resistance and full-frontal attacks.

Your Leader can support you by:

  • Putting him/herself in your shoes and digging below the surface of the anger to find what's causing it
  • Ensuring there are plenty of avenues for issues, feelings, and concerns to be vented
  • Empathizing with your feelings of anger, but not letting you get away with it. For example,"It's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to shout at others."
  • Keeping his or her mind clear. Understanding that when you feel you are listened to, respected, and understood, your anger will weaken, reduce and eventually probably disappear
  • As difficult as it may be, to not take your anger personally and avoid becoming angry or defensive him/herself


You'll know you are resisting change when you catch yourself saying things like, "This will never work. We've tried 'stuff' like this before. How's it any different this time? Why bother saying anything to anyone, they'll do what they want regardless of my input. It probably just means more work for me."

Your Leader can support you by:

  • Not asking you to snap out of it or pull yourself together - denying your feelings may only drive them deeper
  • Keep providing you with an abundance of information about the change in the workplace
  • Keep you up to speed with timeframes for when and how the change will take place
  • Not pushing advice on you - this might deepen your resistance - but be willing to listen to you
  • Involving you as much as you want to be involved - the more you feel you have some control over the change the more your resistance will lessen


Whether you see the change as positive or negative, as you leave behind the familiar past, you may experience some sadness. This is normal. It helps you to understand how much you care about something.

Your Leader can support you by:

  • Encouraging you to discuss your feelings and what may be triggering them
  • Helping you to find ways to manage your feelings and thinking patterns
  • Encouraging you to take time for physical exercise, rest and healthy eating
  • Providing support so you can get professional assistance if your sadness begins to show the symptoms of depression
People Side of Change In The Workplace


Stress occurs when you feel like you have no control. You may become ill. The most harmful kind of stress is social isolation, particularly if you are the only person who is feeling negative about the change.

Your Leader can support you by:

  • Helping you to find the support you need - whether this is family, workmates, friends or by providing access to professional counseling
  • Putting you in touch with stress reduction resources such as meditation, relaxation tapes, breathing techniques etc.

In Summary

Leaders, take note: One of the most significant barriers to organizational change is YOU! How you react to people's emotions. Take it as a given that when changes happen people will get emotional.

It is your job to take the needed time and understanding to work with their emotional reaction. Ignore this at your peril. For more on decreasing the barriers to organizational change, and ensuring you set up the conditions to get the best possible reaction to change from your people access the Managing The People Side Change In The Workplace.

I love this video from Playing For Change. The song is Stand By Me. Musicians, from around the globe, come together to remind us that at some point in our lives we all need someone to stand by us as we are dealing with change and chaos. As you take a few minutes to enjoy the music and watch them sing their way around the world --- reflect upon how, sometimes it is your role as leader, to simply stand by your people and support them as they need.

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Part 1

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