The Myth of Resistance to Change

“Why won’t they do what I want?”

“Why won’t they do what is best for them?”

“I can see how to solve this, why can’t they just try it?”


Down through millennia, these are the daily thoughts of people trying to change things.

All leaders experience what they think is “Resistance to Change”.

“It’s real!” I hear you shout, “I get it all the time.”

In my many years of experience, this so called resistance to change crumbles with a few simple questions.

If you are leading change and getting resistance, find a few of the most resistant people, take them aside and ask them the following:

1) “Are you happy with how things are (not regarding the change project, but the day-to-day situation)?”

I’ll lay down cold hard cash that the answer will be “No.”

Those who resist the most tend to be those who are the most passionate. They will always have something to say about the way things are.

Which begs the next question:

2) “What do you think should or could be different?”

The answer will come in the form of, “This… and that… and this…” And so on. Again, they know what should be different but if they are resisting, it’s likely that no one has asked them before.

Follow this with:

3) “Okay, I hear that. If we worked together on ‘this and that and this’ do you think you could help?”

I’d give reasonable odds on a “Yes” to at least one of the options.

Thus you have proven that the resisters are not resisting change, they are just resisting your change.


There is no resistance to change, just resistance to bad change, done-to change, imposed change, change they did five years ago, change that starts before the last changes have been implemented, change that is rushed, change that is underfunded, change that doesn’t involve the staff or the public, change that is just plain dumb.

You are starting to unlock their need for joy in public service. It was always in there, but at times it leaks out as resistance. Sometimes people feel that the best thing to do is to block, delay or derail the change. But they won’t do that when they are involved in the change and see it as improving the system to help people.

Next time you encounter resistance to change, try these questions and see if you can peel back that resistance.

However, before you do, pause, and ensure that you are actually going to listen to the answers. For the one thing worse that not listening to people, is asking them and then only pretending to listen.