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The fear of change

At the level of organisations and workplaces there is usually a fear and resistance to change. There are a myriad of reasons why this is so. In each and every instance there is likely to be an argument made to justify the reaction to change; be it one of acceptance or non-acceptance.

Whatever argument is presented, it can be contended that the basis of the argument is rooted in the individual’s predisposition to change.

Those who don’t have a problem with change will see it as an opportunity to try, do or learn new things. Those who oppose change, are either suspicious of change, or prefer to have things remain as there are, irrespective of whatever good reasons are advanced. Those who would have things remain the same; or as some may put it, “maintain the status quo ante”, can be said to be fearful of change. It is not unusual for this group to preach the gospel of gloom and doom.

Leaders or persons who fall in this group need not be ridiculed or condemned for the position they hold, since the position is grounded in the fact that they are fearful of the unknown. As some would put it, they are comfortable with the tried and proven.

This fear of change can be overridden if persons in the organisation are made to understand why any change is contemplated. There is less likely to be resistance when this happens. Given it is widely accepted that change is inevitable, the best recommended way to implement change at the level of the organisation and workplace, is by instituting the change management process.

This process simply requires identifying the change, engaging the people and implementing the change. It is expected that all responsible and mature organisations will behave in such a manner.

It seems rather normal that there will be some resistance to change. A change of management personnel, policies and/or practices in a workplace, could lead to elation and/or frustration. The change of leadership at the level of an organisation can also be equally divisive. Sometimes the negative response in any such instance is tied to all the wrong reasons. From the perspective of the head of any organisation or enterprise, the fear of change can be frightening, as it can be mistaken to mean the loss of control.

The fear which accompanies change sometimes manifests itself in some fairly subtle forms. Avoidance or passive-aggressive behaviour may fall into this category. However, more drastic forms are reflected by way of outright defiance, hostility and sabotage. The abuse of power, harassment, intimidation, targeting of individuals, the denegation and victimization of persons, are some of the unfortunate forms of behaviour often exhibited. For the most part, these forms of aggressive behaviour tend to be associated with leaders.

The fear of change on the part of any leader is very suggestive of the insecurity of that individual. Any good leader should appreciate that change is important in the life of any organisation. Where there is not the desire to promote change within an organisation, more often than not, such an organisation positions itself to fail.

Leaders who fail to accept change and resort to resisting it, tend to use bullying tactics to get their way. The sad reality is that this type of approach is often seen as offence and is doomed to failure.

Here is where rationality gives way to ignorance. Frank Leahy adequately sums it up by making the point that, “Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.”

* Dennis de Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.

Visit our Website: www.regionalmanagementservicesinc

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