What Causes Resistance to Change in Corporate Culture?

People don’t like change.

Humans are made to resist anything that threatens their comfort level.

As a result, they interpret change as a threat and their immediate result to change is fear, fight, or flight.

Resistance to change is therefore generally caused by our inability to willingly get out of our comfort zone and the will to put up a fight to maintain our comfort.

In organizations, cultural change is often the most difficult task for leaders.

In modern organizations, leaders are realizing the need to change their corporate culture to be more inclusive, adaptive, collaborative, and value-driven.

However, the efforts to incorporate these elements into corporate cultures are often met with resistance.

Before managers learn how to deal with resistance to change, it is essential that they first understand what causes resistance to change.

Here are some of the main causes of resistance to change in corporate culture.

Causes of Resistance to Change in Corporate Culture

Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown is one of the major causes of resistance to change in corporate culture.

People will not change if they are not fully aware of what is on the other side.

For example, if an organization introduces automation to help with the mundane tasks so that the employees can focus on the human and more lucrative side of the business, employees may resist change when they perceive this as a threat to their jobs.

Lack of information

Poor communication on the side of management can lead to increased resistance to change.

If management introduces change and does not communicate sufficiently why the change is needed and what is expected, employees don’t understand to change and the immediate response is to reject something that they do not understand.

Lack of proper information leads to grapevine and speculations about what could happen and often the speculations are not positive.

It is essential that management lets employees know what is wrong with the current corporate culture, why a new culture is needed and the benefits of the new culture will be.

Lack of sufficient knowledge and skills

Employees that are not well educated and trained are often afraid of failure.

They choose to stay in their areas of comfort for fear that by trying something new, they will fail.

Employees with a fixed mindset will view challenges as tests to make them look bad and will shy away from challenges.

Therefore, they protect themselves from possible failure by resisting change.

This is why it is essential that before a change is introduced into an organization, managers follow the ADKAR model.

This model helps create awareness about the change, creates the desire for employees to participate in the change, and train them on skills and abilities needed to handle the change.

Lack of empowerment

Employees that are not empowered thrive in their comfort zones and lack confidence outside their comfort areas.

Empowerment through skills, knowledge, and assurance gives employees confidence that they can tackle whatever is thrown their way.

As a result, they are more flexible, adaptable, and welcoming to change.

On the other hand, employees that are not empowered will perceive change as a threat and something they cannot handle and will choose the comfort of the status quo.


In organizations where the relationship between management and employees is poor, employees tend to mistrust leaders and their intentions.

Lack of confidence in an organization’s leader can lead to resistance to change.

In such situations, employees do not trust that the leader is making the changes with their interest at heart and will resist change as they don’t perceive the change as good for them.

Poor timing

Sometimes employees resist change due to poor timing in the introduction of the change.

For example, the past year or so has been difficult for many due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

People are a bit sensitive and would like a bit of comfort.

Introducing a major cultural change at such a time can be a bit too much for employees and they are likely to resist.

Lack of supportive structures

When incorporating corporate culture change, managers must support employees through the change process.

For example, if the organization intends to create a more innovative corporate culture, it would be wise for leaders to create a work environment in which employees are encouraged to air their ideas and opinions without fear of retaliation.

Further, managers can create spare time for employees to work on their creative ideas and innovate more.

Without such structural changes at the workplace, employees can view the new innovative culture as an addition to their workload without any rewards and fail to participate.

Resistance is part of the process

To say goodbye is to die a little – Raymond Chandler

Change is naturally painful to most of us and sometimes, resistance is part of the process.

According to Kübler-Ross’s change curve, the change process involves denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.

Resistance to change in an organization can be such that employees are currently going through the initial stages of change before they actually accept the change.

Leaders need to understand this and deal with employees with empathy and support to help them through the change process.

Conclusively, in every change process more so in a culture that involves changing people’s mindsets and behaviors, there is bound to be some form of resistance.  However, in organizations where employees are well informed, empowered, and well supported by management, resistance is often manageable and can cut in the bud before growing to unmanageable levels.

The Destiny Team