The barriers to social change

The barriers to social change

People naturally resist change – including those who are in dysfunctional situations. One reason is that where we are now is known. For example, we may find ourselves in a bad situation, but it is nevertheless a known situation – and many people prefer the known to the unknown. If we want people to be able to initiate and sustain change we must be aware of the barriers to change. Let us discuss the barriers to change and how to overcome the barriers to change.

A) Barriers to change Process of Change

A degree of resistance is normal since change is disruptive and stressful. Moreover, a degree of scepticism can be healthy especially where there are weaknesses in the proposed changes. However, resistance will also impede the achievement of organizational objectives.
Some of the reasons for resistance to change are discussed below Kotter and Schlesinger have identified basic causes of resistance to change.

These are:
i) Parochial self interest: individuals are more concerned with the implications for themselves.
ii) Misunderstanding: communications problems and inadequate information.
iii) Low tolerance of change: sense of insecurity and different assessment of the situation.
iv) Disagreement over the need for change: disagreement over the advantages and disadvantages.
Some negative comments that are often received on proposed changes
• “My needs are already being met”.
• “There is no justification for change”.
• “I don’t like the way they propose to do it”.
• “The risks outweigh the benefits”.
• “It will now be harder for me to meet my own needs”.

Organizational barriers to change
• Structural inertia
• Existing power structures
• Resistance from work groups
• Failure of previous change initiatives

B) Individual barriers to change

• Tradition and set ways
• Loyalty to existing relationships
• Failure to accept the need for change
• Insecurity
• Preference for the existing arrangements
• Break up of work groups
• Difference in personal ambitions
• Fear of: loss of power, loss of skills, loss of income
• The unknown
• Redundancy
• Inability to perform as well in the new situation

Inappropriate change management
• Change is often resisted because of a failure in the way it is introduced
• Failure to explain the need for change
• Failure to provide information
• Failure to consult, negotiate, and offer support and training
• Lack of involvement in the process
• Failure to build trust and sense of security
• Poor employee relations
Why change should be welcomed.
Change can produce positive benefits for the individual.
• Opportunities for personal change and development
• Provides a new challenge
• Reduces the boredom of work
• Opportunity to participate and shape the outcome

C) Overcoming resistance to change:

Six Change Approaches Kotter and Schlesinger set out six change approaches to deal with resistance to change:
i) Education and Communication – where there is a lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis, one of the best ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about the effort. This helps people to see logic in the change effort.
ii) Participation and Involvement – people should be invited to participate and involve themselves in the change effort; this way they will not resist change.

iii) Facilitation and Support – where people are resisting change due to adjustment problems, managers can head off potential resistance by being supportive of employees during difficult times.
iv) Negotiation and Agreement – where someone or some group may lose out in a change, and where the individual or group has considerable power to resist, managers can combat resistance by offering incentives to people to change.
v) Manipulation and Co-option – where other tactics will not work or are too expensive, an effective way will be manipulation to co-opt the resisters. Co-option involves a patronizing gesture that brings a person into a change management planning group. This often involves selecting leaders of the resisters to participate in the change effort.
vi) Explicit and Implicit Coercion – this is used where speed is essential and is only a last resort. Managers can explicitly and implicitly force employees into accepting change by making clear that resisting change can lead to losing jobs, firing, transferring, or not promoting employees.

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