HCBS Training

Understanding Resistance to Change

young boy with arms folded looking unhappy, words no surround him

Resistance to change is a topic of interest for people who want to improve services. People who are asked to adopt new practices are not always eager to change their everyday routines and patterns. Many of the ways we interact with the world started long ago and are based on long-term habits that reflect our culture and background. People working in education and human services have seen many new ideas and models come and go over time. A common attitude by many staff is to wait until these popular “fads” are replaced by something new. It can be frustrating to start a project only to watch interest in it fade away when a new idea comes up. The work is then left undone and there is a feeling of wasted time and effort. This topic, first mentioned in Module 3, has  created challenges for teams implementing person-centered and positive support practices.

There are many reasons why people resist adopting these new practices.

Some Explanations for Resistance

  • The perception that one’s work performance is being judged in a negative way
  • Being told what to do without being given a choice can take away the feeling of being in control
  • People may prefer their current work habits and routines
  • Staff may doubt that an investment in change will be supported over time by leaders
  • Feelings of stress may arise when taking on a new task or being asked to take on “one more thing” 
  • A general view can exist that the staff person's time will be wasted because this is a passing fad
  • The lack of detailed understanding of how a practice fits with one’s values can make a person feel uneasy

Strategies for Addressing Resistance

Teams that succeed in addressing resistance to change start the planning process by involving everyone in HCBS in making important decisions about how to proceed. Empowering people to become part of the work can address some of the reasons for resistance.

A team may work on increasing trust by writing an outcome statement for the organization. Actions that show the team and leadership are invested include:

  • Showing that the team and leadership are accountable by sharing the assessment and action plan work,
  • Creating an approach to supervision that supports staff and remains consistent over time
  • Highlighting staff strengths and taking time to celebrate the work staff complete, and
  • Supporting cultural diversity and taking time to listen to issues related to equity

Trust in one’s organization is a larger issue that makes it possible to introduce new ideas. Trust is an area to invest in for many reasons beyond the topic of resistance.

Using time wisely and building the action plan goals into meetings, communication, and everyday work helps establish new habits and routines. This gives the message that person-centered practice is the work of HCBS and the efforts being taken will not be gone tomorrow.

When enough people support change, attitudes begin to shift. Using a positive approach that builds on staff strengths empowers people to solve problems in their own way. Find champions who can help share information, encourage people to become more involved, and celebrate success.