Honeywell Forge Visitor and Vendor ManagementVCM Logo Mobile
Blog Combatting the fear of change in the workplace copy

Here's how you can combat 'fear of change' in the workplace.

By Maddy GlynnDigital Marketing Specialist
Published on August 22, 2017


If you are looking to introduce change into your workplace, it is important to understand what you might be up against. Some people may have an intrinsic resistance to change. Whilst it is often said that humans have a fear of change (and they do), a 2010 study by the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas of a selection of students from the University of Maine and the University of Arkansas showed that it might be more than that. Beyond the fear, some people may also have a very strong (if subconscious) preference for things that have been around longer, believing that the longevity of a product, or a way of doing things, can potentially be indicative of how good it is. 

Whilst we live in a world where the ongoing rapid development of technology means we are potentially growing more accustomed to dealing with change, that may not necessarily mean we are more accepting of it.  So, what is the best way of getting the support of your team at work when you introduce brand new and unfamiliar ways of doing things?

In this article, we will delve into what constitutes the ‘fear of change’ in the workplace, the source of such fears, alongside how you can help your employees overcome these obstacles.

What is the ‘fear of change’ in the workplace?

The ‘fear of change’ is a universal concept, being comfortable with routine and traditions can be favourable to many people, regardless of whether it’s in the workplace or not. So what does this mean when it comes to the workplace? Fear or resistance to change  in the workplace is just what it says – employees, managers and other organizational stakeholders may not be comfortable or may even be frightened of disruptions and changes to their day-to-day work environment and routines.   

Blog_FM Trends 2023

What causes fear of change in the workplace

Employee fear of change in the workplace can stem from a variety of different factors depending on the employee, their experience with major changes and how familiar they are with routine and structure.

Fear of change at work may derive from a variety of sources:

  • Dealing with the fear of the unknown can affect the employee and how well they embrace changes in the workplace.
  • Unsatisfactory past experiences with major changes implemented by an employer that may not have worked can also impact an employee’s approach to change, leading to unbeknownst bias around any sort of organizational modifications.
  • A fear of failure may cause employees to be concerned that they cannot adapt effectively to workplace changes, and, as such, their skills and productivity may be hindered.
  • Employees might be ‘creatures of habit’ and content with routine, tradition, and structure – ultimately resisting any sort of disruptions to this.

To add more context, examples of major workplace changes may consist of:

  • New management and a shift in organizational hierarchical structure
  • Implementation of new technology and removing/automating various outdated yet familiar processes 
  • Introduction of different working models such as hybrid work, remote work or even requiring employees to come back into the office full-time.
  • Merges and acquisitions
  • Changes in the companies’ values, mission statement and goals
  • Changes to departmental practices, key objectives, and processes. For example, a change in target market and value proposition for the marketing department or a new hiring process for the HR department.
  • Major changes in budgets, KPI’s and resource allocation
  • New internal workplace policies that employees have to follow – such as a logging their working hours.  
  • Implementing visitor and contractor management software…

Visitor and Contractor management software may alter roles, responsibilities, and expectations of employees such as receptionists, facilities managers, operations managers, and compliance departments. It may also impact employees as it can change the way they communicate and interact with visitors and contractors. They may also deal with the expectation that they will be able to adapt to and utilize this new software. Such implementations could also alter or call for a change in workplace visitor and contractor policies and guidelines.

digital visitor management system

As new technological advancements and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming increasingly applicable in our everyday working lives, combatting the fear of change in the workplace may be a useful mechanism to help people adjust to major changes without taking a significant toll on productivity or employee satisfaction.

And, without workplaces changes, there may be no opportunities for organizations to thrive or enhance operational efficiency through adapting to new challenges, technology and processes.

How to help your employees overcome fear of change in the workplace

Employee fear of change can be a challenge to recognize and overcome. But, if you implement the tips outlined below, you may be able to help your employees better adjust to necessary modifications without feeling lost or out of the loop as to why such changes are required.

Blog Monitoring compliance in the workplace_ an in depth guide

Overcoming the fear of organizational change tip 1: Give your team the heads up

It is important to make sure that everyone who needs to know about the change is given some lead time to get their heads around it. This may seem like change management 101, but it’s surprising the number of times change is introduced to the people directly affected by it without their prior knowledge. Even if they’re not a part of the decision-making process, if the change impacts upon even a minute of their day, let them know about it ahead of time. Otherwise, you’re only inviting their resistance.

Overcoming the fear of organizational change tip 2: Highlight that the new way is a help, not a hindrance

Your team need to believe that this new, unfamiliar way of doing things is not going to be a permanent hassle or an additional roadblock to their productivity. It’s also important to prove to your employees the long-term benefits of such changes alongside the reasons behind the change. Perhaps some sort of road map or timeline around these proposed changes can also help your employees eventually be on the same page as you.

For example, a 2017 APA Work and Well-Being Survey of 1500 working US adult’s attitudes about organizational change revealed that:

  • 29% of workers believed management had a hidden agenda
  • 31% believed motives and intentions were different to how they were being told
  • Only 43% had confidence that these changes would have the desired outcomes

Also, acknowledge that learning a new way of doing things may take a little time and be difficult at first, but then outline the ways in which the new process improves upon the old. Emphasise the time and effort savings, and what that will mean for their day-to-day lives in the workplace moving forward. Help them get excited about the new way of doing things by showing them, not just telling them, how it will be better.

Overcoming the fear of organizational change tip 3: keep talking

You may have members of your team that openly embrace the change. Others may continue to be resistant and closed off to the possibilities the new process offers. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open, invite feedback, and address any criticisms with understanding and encouragement. It is important for your team to know they are being heard; even when that doesn’t broker a reversion to the old way of doing things, simply being heard is often enough to help them come around to the new way.

It is also imperative to guide (and train) your employees through these changes, especially major technological changes and implementations. For instance, PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey revealed that 38% of respondents are concerned that they will not get sufficient training in digital and technology skills from their employers. These fears are most likely then carried on and retained when technological changes are implemented in the workplace – proving the importance of continuous training and managerial guidance.

Blog Communication on site 2

Overcoming the fear of organizational change tip 4: The reality of the matter

Just as you have invested in the time it took to investigate your new way of doing things, so too do you need to invest in the time to both, build your teams enthusiasm, and dampen their resistance to change. It’s not impossible to overcome this inherent aversion to the new, but if you want to succeed, you need to face up to the fact that it is there, and deal with it accordingly.

Of course, in this current, competitive environment - change is ultimately inevitable. Managerial stakeholders will need to communicate to their employees that to adapt to ever-changing demands, inflationary pressures, the new age of work, and stresses to run a profitable business – appropriate changes and alterations are to be expected. For instance, PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey revealed that around 60% of CEO’s are focused on reinventing their businesses for the future.

The guide to front desk digitization

Learn how to deliver a world-class occupant experience and safety at scale
Download guide
Front Desk Digitization web icon