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June 22, 2023

The Detrimental Impact of Leaders' Resistance to Change on Employees

Categories:  Leadership
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. ~ John F Kennedy

Change is an inevitable part of the business world, driven by advancements in technology, evolving market dynamics, and shifting customer demands. Successful organizations recognize the need to adapt and embrace change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.

However, within many corporations, leaders' resistance to change has emerged as a significant hurdle, adversely affecting employees and impeding progress. In this blog post, we will explore the detrimental impact of such resistance.

Some of the Causes of the Resistance

Not all resistance to change is detrimental, especially when the value or costs of the change has not been fully scoped or explained. We are not talking about those times. We are looking at the times when change is needed, and the leader is resisting.

Why would a leader resist change? In organizational change, the leader may fear a loss of power and control or status as a result of the change. In structural changes, the leader may see increased costs arising in their sphere of control. In technological changes, the leader may not understand the new technology and fears losing the ability to explain issues causing disruption. The leader may resist changing to maintain the status quo to avoid disrupting their employees in an attempt to maintain high performance.

Stifling Innovation and Creativity

When leaders resist change, they inadvertently stifle innovation and creativity within the organization. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, 94% of executives acknowledged that organizational agility and the ability to innovate were vital to their company's success. However, only 6% of respondents believed their organizations were highly effective at innovation. This discrepancy points to a clear gap between recognizing innovation's importance and fostering a culture that supports it.

Leaders who resist change tend to favor maintaining the status quo over exploring new ideas and approaches. This mindset discourages employees from suggesting innovative solutions or questioning existing processes, resulting in missed opportunities and decreased competitiveness.

Diminishing Employee Engagement and Morale

Employee engagement and morale play a crucial role in driving organizational performance. A study conducted by Gallup found that engaged employees are 21% more productive than those who are disengaged. However, when leaders resist change, it creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and frustration among employees, leading to decreased engagement and morale.

A survey conducted by Towers Watson revealed that only 37% of employees felt their senior leaders were effective at managing change. The remaining 63% were either neutral or dissatisfied with their leaders' change management skills. This lack of confidence in leadership can lead to disengagement, higher turnover rates, and reduced productivity.

Impact on Employee Well-being and Job Satisfaction

Resistance to change can profoundly impact employee well-being and job satisfaction. The uncertainty and anxiety caused by organizational changes, such as restructuring or technological transformations, can take a toll on employees' mental health. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that change-related stress can lead to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover intentions.

Furthermore, a report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that employees who experienced significant organizational change were more likely to report symptoms of burnout and higher levels of chronic stress. This can lead to a decline in overall employee well-being, negatively affecting both personal and professional aspects of their lives.

Missed Opportunities for Growth and Development

Change often presents opportunities for employees to learn new skills, expand their knowledge, and grow professionally. However, leaders who resist change limit these opportunities, hindering employees' growth and development.

A survey conducted by Deloitte found that 42% of employees believed their organizations were ineffective at helping them develop the necessary skills for the future. Furthermore, 54% of respondents felt that their leaders were not adequately preparing them for the challenges arising from technological disruption. These statistics indicate a significant gap in addressing employees' developmental needs, resulting in a workforce ill-equipped to navigate a rapidly changing business landscape.

Leadership & Change

Leadership resistance to change within corporations has far-reaching consequences for employees. The adverse effects include stifled innovation, diminished employee engagement and morale, decreased well-being and job satisfaction, and missed opportunities for growth and development.

To thrive in a dynamic business environment, organizations must cultivate leadership that embraces change, fosters a culture of innovation, and supports employees in navigating transformative times. By recognizing and addressing the detrimental impact of resistance to change, corporations can unleash the full potential of their workforce and drive sustainable success.

We previously wrote a blog about adaptive leadership that we encourage you to check out if you’re struggling with organizational changes.


James and Lori

James Jackman & Lori Heffelfinger

Supporting Business Leaders to Transform Cultures, Teams, and Workplaces.

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