Change resistance and complacency: Is employee disengagement the elephant in the room?

A number of theories exist why people resist change. Some theories point at change in job content, loss of power and status, or job insecurity. Others include factors such as changes in leadership and employee relationships. Some psychologists even claim that our brain is designed to respond negatively to change due to an auto-response of the Amygdala, triggering a “fight-or-flight” pattern.

Unrelated to the topic of change resistance, Gallup has measured employee engagement since the late 1990s, and the results have been consistently disappointing, The latest survey showed a global average of only 13% (14% for Western Europe). Of equal importance, only 17% of employees feel that their closest leader has invested in their relationship!

To me it is obvious that this has wide implications for change management. If we are in fact, as Gallup claims, facing a huge mass of disengaged employees when walking in the door, what are our chances of mobilizing engagement during times of change? Could this structural disengagement be the main hidden force behind change resistance?

My take away from this is twofold. First, spending more time looking into the latest employee satisfaction survey and interviewing leaders about employee engagement should be a key priority activity in the early phase of a change program. Second, the importance of enhancing the change leadership capability of the managers is equally underlined.

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