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Resistance to change: How to start a mentoring program in a more traditional business

June 16, 2019

Regardless of their size, organisations can be very slow to change. While this resistance to change can be good because it prevents the company from being caught up in short-lived trends, it can also mean the organisation does not adapt as well as it could. It may also mean that the organisation is not well-equipped to tackle employee issues like engagement.

Most traditional organisations have become set in their ways, which prevents them from recognizing or responding to workplace problems. This, in turn, can lead to a high turnover rate. Particularly in the face of a changing economy. For example, most younger workers desire flexibility in an employer. They also expect a certain level of technology to make their jobs easier and more interesting. Organisations that fail to recognize and respond to these expectations will find it difficult to attract young talent to the fold.

What is organisational resistance?

Organisational resistance really refers to the way in which an organisation fights any changes to its current, established way of doing things. Most often, companies see themselves as a well-run machine. They keep doing the same things in expectation of getting the same outcome.

However, an article online in Inc., noted that change was important to growth and to achieve great things. These changes are often in response to something within the organisation that is not running as well as it should be. Thus, many organisations that resist change are also missing the opportunity to grow.

Sources of organisational resistance

According to one HR website, there are six sources that cause organisational resistance. They are:

  1. Structural inertia. These are the companies that look for employees who fit into their current corporate culture and avoid hiring anyone who may challenge the established way of doing things. These organisations have a standard way of doing things such as hiring and are not comfortable with change.
  2. Limited focus of change. This happens when one subsection of the organisation attempts to change, but the organisation as a whole does not change. Any change that one component attempts will be thwarted due to the resistance of the other parts of the organisation.
  3. Group Inertia. This type of resistance can be found in workplaces that have unions. It is caused by the overall group unwilling to accept the change. Therefore, even if some employees believe the change is good, it will be resisted due to the norms in place in the organisation.
  4. Expertise threat. In these situations, change in the organisation is resisted because it causes a threat to a group of experts in the company. These experts resist the change because it may put them out of work.
  5. Power relationship threat. Organisations often have established power relationships. Any change that may encroach on the decision-making authority of those in these relationships will be resisted. For example, management will often resist any move towards group decision making or self-management of teams.
  6. Resource allocation threats. Sections of the organisation that control a large portion of resources may resist change because they see it as a threat to their resource-control.

Overcoming organisational resistance

One of the main elements that run through all the sources of organisational resistance is the concern on behalf of individual employees or groups of employees that they will be replaced or lose their place in the company.

Robert Tanner wrote in a blog post that people do not resist change that they believe is in their best interests.

“For any significant organizational change effort to be effective, you'll need a thoughtful strategy and a thoughtful implementation approach to address these barriers,” he wrote.

“People in an organisation will always evaluate the benefit of any change. Will the change make their organisational lives better? Or, will the change make their lives worse?”

One of the most important tools for overcoming resistance in any organisation is transparency and good communication.

If you are aiming for any long-standing or significant changes in a company, such as creating a workplace mentoring program, you will need to effectively communicate why the program will be a boon for the organisation. You should also aim to make it personal. Let employees know what they can expect to gain from a mentoring program. This means explain the benefits of workplace mentoring programs both to participants as well as to other employees in the workplace.

It is also crucial to have employee training and support to ensure the change is successful. If you are starting a workplace mentoring program for your organisation, training mentors and mentees can help them develop the skills they need to make a workplace mentoring program effective.

When developing a mentoring program in your organisation, it is important to have a strategy. That means, define the problem in your organisation, demonstrate how a workplace mentoring program can help and define goals so you can measure the success of the program.  

In addition, you should get some people on your side. Advocates are also a sign of a good workplace mentoring program. The more employees that are onboard with the plan the better the chances that the change will not be thwarted.


Change is an important part of an organisation’s growth and development. Yet, all too often companies can become stuck doing things a certain way, but that way does not produce the outcomes that propel the business forward.

Any struggle to change the way things are done is referred to as organisational resistance. When it comes to creating or improving a workplace mentoring program, this type of resistance can hinder the success. However, by understanding where the resistance is coming from and finding ways to get everyone on board, resistance can be overcome. With clear communication, a well-thought-out strategy and some training, any organisation can develop a mentoring program that works.

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