businessBusiness Coachingbusiness growthconsultantFinanceHuman ResourcesProcess Improvementsmall-businessCHANGE MANAGEMENT:TYPES OF CHANGE-RESISTANT EMPLOYEES AND HOW TO ENGAGE THEM

August 18, 2021by Mikerash1
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In the event of change, varying human behaviors and preferences ignite different reactions in different individuals. In the workplace, this is especially true. 

When faced with change in the organization, employees generally fall into 3 groups:

Group 1: Often referred to as the early adopter group, individuals in this category are open and willing to change.

Group 2: A sizable step away from group 1, employees here are uncertain and hesitant about change.

Group 3: Employees here become entrenched and often will not change.

Depending on your organization and the type of change taking place, the distribution of employees in each group will vary. For simple changes with very little impact, you may find that 90% of your employees fall into Group 1, 10% fall into Group 2 and no employees fall into Group 3. For complex changes that have a significant impact on individuals, the distribution may be much different, with a small fraction falling into Groups 1 and 3, and a large fraction into Group 2. 

Regardless of the distribution of employees into each group, the approach for managing resistance to change is similar.


With this group, you are dealing with your least-resistant employees, the ones who are the first to accept and commit to the change. Thus, it is critical that you engage these employees early and leverage their visible participation to help move the change forward. Each employee within this group can become a strong advocate for change and can influence the other employees. This network is a key channel to reach your Group 2 employees. Group 1 represents the advocates.


Group 2 employees require the most time and attention-they are the central focus of the methods provided here. Their choice to support or not support the change will be influenced by how effectively the change is managed. Direct supervisors and coaches will be the primary enablers. This is the group that may need help moving through barriers to adopting and using the change. 


Group 3 employees, by definition, prove the inability to change-therefore, they will not support the change within the organization. To avoid complying with an organizational change, they often begin contemplating their exit strategy; this may include moving to another group or department, moving to another company, or exiting the workforce all together.

Considering the nature and overall perspective of Group 3 employees, remember the importance of where to focus your change management energy. Change management energy is typically spent on the small percentage within Group 3. Instead, we strongly recommend that you focus your change management energy on the majority within the other groups.



Resistance is a natural and normal reaction to change. Each individual has a threshold for how much change they can absorb, however, the number-one reason frontline employees resist change: a lack of awareness of the underlying business need for the change.

It is beneficial to diagnose the root cause of resistance using an assessment like the one below. Providing the necessary information to increase employees’ awareness of the business need for change is the first and most important proactive step in successful resistance management. The assessment below will allow you to determine if awareness, desire, knowledge, ability or reinforcement are barrier points or root causes for employee resistance. The assessment yields greatest results when completed face-to-face by someone who actively listens to the employee. 

This is where your managers and frontline supervisors play a critical role in managing change. They will be key players and can use this assessment with their specific employees.


You can use this exercise in a face-to-face discussion with a resistant employee or manager, or the employee could be asked to provide responses in writing. Ideally, this exercise should be done by the employee’s direct supervisor.

Why do you think the change is happening? Describe the business, customer or competitor issues that you believe have created a need for change.

Do you support this change? What factors affect your desire to change? Would you consider yourself in favor of the change, neutral towards the change, or opposed to the change?

Do you have the training you need? Identify the skills and knowledge that you believe are necessary to support the change. On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your current training on these skills and knowledge areas? 

Are you having any difficulty implementing these skills and knowledge? If yes, in what areas? Considering the required skills and knowledge, how would you rate your ability to implement the changes?

Are you getting the support you need? Is there adequate reinforcement and support for the change going forward? In what areas can we provide additional support or reinforcement?


Understand, as a project team or change management team, you will not be able to eliminate resistance; however, you can proactively manage and minimize that resistance. Once you have determined the barrier point(s) for a resistant employee, you can take action to address that specific area. And knowing the potential types of resistant employees in your organization will help you focus your change management energy to be the most successful in your project.

Up to this moment in your career, how has your experience been with organizational change? Have you had any at all? Whether you are a business leader confident in your abilities, a manager new to the game, or an employee feeling uneasy of what’s on the horizon, change can feel intimidating -despite your greatest preparation


With complicated processes such as this, it’s reassuring to have someone by your side throughout to encourage and act as a voice of reason. If you’re looking for a complete set of change management tools, templates, assessments, including resistance management training, our team of experts at MCDA CCG, INC. can help make your organization change as effective as possible. Still unsure? We encourage you to pick up the phone and give our team-headquartered in Placentia, Orange County, California-a complementary call today!


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