Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Real Roots of Change Resistance

In the Psychology Today blog post The (Only) Five Basic Fears We All Live By Karl Albrecht very succinctly distills and outlines the root fears that drive all others. What I was struck by was how three of those core fears are directly related to change resistance.

  • Loss of Autonomy - fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or controlled by circumstances. In a physical form, it's sometimes known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to social interactions and relationships.
  • Separation - fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness - of becoming a non-person - not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The "silent treatment," when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on the targeted person.
  • Ego-death - fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; fear of the shattering or disintegration of one's constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.
A good changes strategy, therefore would deal not just with trying to change attitudes by throwing more information at people, but by truly understanding the fear that is driving the resistance and dealing effectively with it, whether proactively or after the fact. Change leaders should communicate clearly about when change does not affect autonomy, separation (or connectedness) and integrity of the individual.  The change leader should also be clear and transparent about instances where there is impact so people can make informed decisions, and offer some help when appropriate.