The Psychology Behind Change- with guest writer Anna Carolina

In the constantly evolving landscape of technology, businesses are encountering a pivotal challenge: the need to adapt to continuous change. Gone are the days where you did one big implementation which would remain relevant for years. Now we are bombarded with changes all the time, some you hardly notice, and some takes some getting used to.  

Last week Microsoft teams set mute as default when you go into meetings. I’m still not used to it, and “you’re on mute” is suddenly as relevant as when corona started.  

Change, however frequent, is not automatically embraced. It requires thoughtful management because, by our very nature, we resist it. We prefer to change on our own terms, not under the mandate of a collective corporate directive. It’s time to think different, to adopt a new perspective on change, one that considers the psychology of human behaviour and collective effort. 

Understanding Resistance to Change 

Resistance to change is a psychological defence mechanism, rooted in the fear of the unknown, the discomfort of losing control, the comfort found in current processes, the impact of misinformation, the influence of social dynamics, and the scars of past experiences. This resistance is especially noticeable during business transformations, where the stakes feel high and the outcomes uncertain. 

The Catalysts for Change: Pain, Knowledge, Inspiration 

  1. When It Hurts Enough: Pain or significant discomfort with the current state can be a powerful motivator. Businesses often initiate change when existing processes become unforgivably inefficient or when market competition demands a shift. This discomfort can overcome the inertia of resistance. 
  1. When We Know Enough: Education and understanding are crucial. When employees and leaders comprehend the benefits of new technologies or ways of working, and how these changes align with their goals, resistance can give way to acceptance and enthusiasm. 
  1. When Inspired: Inspiration can be a potent catalyst. A compelling vision of the future, shared by leaders and echoed in the company’s narrative, can transform hesitation into excitement. Seeing successful examples of digital transformation can also ignite a desire for change. 

The Tale of Two Transformations 

Reflecting on 15 years in the industry, two transformation experiences stand out: one, a beacon of success, and the other, a cautionary tale. 

The Power of Communication 

Communication is pivotal in managing change. The narrative surrounding transformation should emphasize the vision and purpose behind the change, using positive and inclusive language. This approach can adjust the emotional response to change, shifting from fear and resistance to understanding and acceptance. 
In the successful transformation, a clear and exciting narrative was spun: ”We are going to change the engine of this airplane while flying it, and we’ll do it together.” Accompanied with a clear vision of new ways of working, it engaged people, making them eager participants in the journey. 

Conversely, the less successful story centred on the company’s pain—a necessary change, “we love what we have been, but need to create a new future” but one without a clear vision for the future, leaving employees disengaged and bewildered. 

Cultivating a Learning Culture 

The successful transformation championed a culture of continuous learning, dedicating 20% of employees’ time to upskilling, fostering a shared language, and a collective understanding of the new way of working through common upskilling programs. This approach facilitated a swift transition to delivering value in new roles. 

The unsuccessful attempt, lacking in learning initiatives and clear role definitions, struggled with confusion and inconsistency, illustrating the criticality of a nurtured learning environment. 

Role of Leadership in Modelling Change 

In the successful scenario, leaders celebrated both triumphs and setbacks, fostering a culture where learning from ”failures” was as valued as celebrating successes, whereas the less successful transformation saw leaders grappling with change alongside their teams, without being able to provide the necessary guidance and support. 

Empowerment through Participation 

Neither transformation was perfect in fostering employee participation in creating change. However, for future change, the incorporation of AI-driven analysis of qualitative input, like interviews, could lead to more effective change management, where employees voices can contribute to the evolution. 

Acknowledging the Emotional Journey 

The successful transformation equipped leaders to handle difficult conversations and facilitated group discussions for mutual support, ensuring they could, in turn, support their teams. The less successful transformation lacked formal structures for such discussions, relying instead on an organic culture of support, which, while valuable, may lack the consistency and reach of a more structured approach. 


Change happens in business when the need and the vision is clear—when sticking to the old ways is more painful than trying something new, when we understand the reasons and benefits of the new path, or when we are inspired by a vision of what’s possible. 

A clear, shared picture of the future is what drives a company forward. It helps everyone see why the change is necessary and how it can make things better. Creating a culture that values learning and flexibility turns these challenges into opportunities for growth. 

Leaders need to be at the forefront, showing how it’s done. Their actions and attitudes can make a big difference in helping everyone feel comfortable with new technology and different ways of working. 

Bringing employees into the heart of change matters. When people have a hand in shaping change, they’re more likely to support it. It helps them feel connected to the company’s goals and confident in the new direction. 

We mustn’t forget the emotional side of change, either. Providing spaces where people can talk about their concerns, get support, and offer feedback helps everyone navigate the new and the unfamiliar. 

So, think different, and by remembering why we change, staying clear on where we’re going, keeping everyone learning and involved, and looking after our emotional well-being, we do more than just change. We transform in a way that lasts, building a team that’s not just ready for the future but excited to meet it head-on.