How to define change
Change is a process that can be planned and/or progressive, through which people or groups can achieve an active adaptation to the reality as long as they maintain a dialectic interplay instead of a passive, rigid, and stereotyped relationship.
Additionally, as we learn from the different situations we live through, we reach the desired transformation by modifying ourselves, entering a dialectic interplay and solving a problematic situation that then becomes a starting point for another trope which will, of course, be resolved through a spiral process.
Resistance to change is understood as “the set of attitudes that have the objective of destroying anxiety sources that every change entails”, says Pichon Riviére.
There are three levels of resistance attitudes:
According to Pichon Riviére, the notion of change always has a positive connotation, meanwhile the notion of resistance to change tends to have a negative connotation, as it creates a stereotyped situation that prevents an active adaptation to reality, it’s the sequence of a group of an individual or group’s achievements.
What’s the origin of resistance to change?
The origin of resistance to change appears in the face of the imminent need for change. This process makes it so that the anxiety intensity increases and it becomes responsible for the appearance of resistance, which is destined to essentially combat or minimize disintegrating anxieties that are cataloged as “fear of attack” and “fear of loss”, which are cooperative and coexisting.
A clear example of this is when two companies merge, people will likely go through an anxiety process:
- Fear of loss: Will I get fired? Will I lose my salary and livelihood? Will I get a new boss? What will they be like? Will I have the same freedom I have now? Pure fear of losing what they already have.
- Fear of attack: Will I feel comfortable with the new company culture? What if I don’t like it? Will I be able to talk? Will I be heard? Who will be my boss in the new structure? Fear of attack from the new and unknown.
On the individual level, resistance usually manifests as people’s responses to change situations that are always anxiety-inducing, because “both the individual and the community will have to face primary fears that cause a basic existential disruption”. When we’re referring to small groups, this resistance to change expresses itself as difficulties in communication and learning.
Group development is obstructed by the presence of stereotypes in group mentality and action. Rigidness and stereotypes make up the main attack point when trying to address a corrective task.
On the social level, when change agents or leaders take on the task of planning said change, it is “permanently obstructed by structures, both institutionalized and not-institutionalized, such as certain pressure groups that award themselves the mission of maintaining the status quo. They are the personification of resistance”.
Change management work has to focus on detecting these anxieties on every level to help people, groups, or institutions overcome said fears, managing to get ahead of resistance situations with an active adaptation to change.