Resistance to Change

Change is inevitable yet everyone resists change. This is because change means new. It could be good, it could be bad? But you need to experience it before you can judge.  Fear is a normal human response to the unknown. You need to understand why people will resist change in order to address their fears and help them come to terms with change or even request it.


Let’s take the resistance you will encounter when you try to alter their shift pattern or schedule. Shift patterns dictate how your staff work, when you expect them to work and when they can have time for themselves. So they are important. How and when you work means the difference between being fatigued or well rested enough to enjoy your days off. It can mean the difference between enjoying 31 weeks off each year or 6 weeks. It can mean the difference between having a very good work/life balance or feeling like you are never at home.


However introducing a new shift pattern or schedule can have far more pertinent effects on your staff than whether they will be working this Monday night or at home with their family. They will ask “Why do you need to change anything?” That is the crux of the matter.

Why change?
  • Is it to make you more efficient? Will staff lose income or employment?
  • Is it to increase production? Will staff lose income or employment?
  • Is it a cost cutting exercise? Will staff lose income or employment?
  • What is wrong with the current system? Will staff lose income or employment?
Your staff will want to know how this change will affect them:
  • Do they have to change? What will happen if I don’t?
  • Are you going to reduce your staffing number? Will there be redundancies?
  • What will their earnings be under the new system? Will I be earning more or less?
  • How much time off will they have? How do I take a holiday? Can I still go to see the football every Saturday?

A Manager’s Approach

A manager will approach change very differently to staff. That is because they are in control. They already know why they have to change. Otherwise they wouldn’t even be considering it. They already know what the ideal result will be. They may even go as far as assessing the consequences of that change. However most managers do not consider their staff’s reaction.

Belligerent manager, “They will change; resistance is futile!”

Considerate manager, “Let’s address your concerns individually and talk about why you feel this way!”

Negotiator, “I want to change, what do you want? Let’s see what deal we can make!”

Co-operative manager, “Let’s work together and create a system!”

Teacher, “You don’t know what’s good for you, so I’m going to tell you, then you can all agree with me!”

Manipulative manager, “So you don’t want to change! Well neither do I, I just want what’s best for everyone. Can you help me do that?”

Managers see that if they introduce a change, they will have to expend 100% effort to get it done. However once it is in place, this change will make their lives easier.


Your employees, on the other hand, will view change in a different light. For them, they see that change means they will have to put in more effort in order for this change to work. Then once it is in place, their work may be reduced, even become obsolete. So there will be redundancies, and should they survive the cull, they will still have to put in just as much effort at work as they do currently.

So why would anyone, of their own volition want to change shift patterns or schedules?

Most managers don’t see or can’t predict the consequences to changing shift patterns or schedules. For most managers changing shift patterns is a once in a career event, so they don’t know or have experience in what the consequences of change will be. So they can’t address their staff’s fears and help them come to terms with change. As for staff requesting change, what would you say to one of your employees who suggested a new way of working?

"The more things change, the more they stay the same!"

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (Les Guêpes, January 1849).

So how do you bring in a new shift pattern or schedule?

Each situation is different and without a full knowledge we can’t recommend the best approach. That being said, here is some free advice:

Ensure you know why you want to change and communicate that to your staff

Know what will be the consequences of you failing to change

When considering how you will change, also consider the effort your staff will need to put in

Consider the negative consequences of the change

  • Redundancies,
  • reduction to income,
  • understanding a new system

Consider the positive consequences of the change

  • Increase in income,
  • promotions,
  • benefits

Know the time frame you have to implement the change over

Consider staggered migration like Mars One

Look at it from your staff’s point of view and anticipate their reactions

If you would like advice on how to change shift patterns or schedules, contact us to find out more or come to one of our CDT03 courses and learn how to implement a new shift pattern.

Creating a Shift Pattern

Would you like a tailor-made shift pattern that perfectly matches your requirements?

You can save money and be more productive with a new shift pattern

Managing a Shift Pattern

Managing a shift pattern can be easy if you plan ahead.

Manage holidays, sickness and training effortlessly.

Negotiating a Shift Pattern

If you find the right shift pattern then you just need to implement it.

Do you know how?

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