How To Overcome Resistance To Change In Your Finance Team

By Linda RoperJuly 27, 2023

Change is inevitable in all areas of life, whether in our personal lives or at work. Implementing new processes or software that will help your finance team perform more efficiently seems like a no-brainer. But for many people, the idea of changing the way they work is uncomfortable and for some, unthinkable.

Resistance to change is a normal human reaction, but when it stops a finance team from broadening its horizons and thinking outside the box, it can be damaging. If you’re looking to introduce new ways of working to your finance team, understanding why they might resist the change is vital to help your team overcome their worries and embrace the change.

Change written on individual wooden blocks which are stacked in a towerTable of contents

Why Do We Resist Change in our Everyday Life?

“Change is the only constant in life.” according to Greek philosopher Heraclitus. If that’s true, and change is inevitable and unavoidable, why are we so afraid of it? There are many reasons why people resist change, not just at work but in all areas of our lives.

Humans are creatures of habit

Order and routine tends to make most people feel comfortable and safe. Change interrupts our usual routine as we have a fear of the unknown and how the change will affect us in the future. This causes us to mentally recalculate our plans, which in turn causes worry and stress.

Loss of control

We like to have control over what’s going on in our lives and change challenges that directly. If we encounter something that could potentially take control away from us, we see it as a threat, and we go on the defensive.

Change creates waves

When you drop a pebble in a pond, you’ll notice the ripples spreading out across the water. The ripple effect can be applied to change. If something happens that we haven’t planned for or can’t control (the pebble), we don’t know where the chain of events (the ripples) will end up. We find this concept frightening and unsettling and often push against it. 

Change can cause pain

We tend to think of resistance as a psychological reaction to change, but it’s also a physiological one. Research shows that doing something in a different way requires a lot more brain power. When presented with a new way of doing something, the physiological reaction is to revert to what the brain already knows. That’s why we find change so difficult and even painful.

Why Do People Resist Change At Work?

Sketched person resisting change by holding wooden blocks from falling overWe’ve seen why people resist change in general. Now let’s look at why people resist change in the workplace.

People don’t see a reward

People work better when they feel like they’re being rewarded for their efforts. Employees are more likely to resist change if they don’t see a reward in accepting it. If your finance team doesn’t see a reward for accepting the change, they probably won’t be motivated to support it, and they probably won’t be particularly enthusiastic about it either.

Change is introduced without warning

The way change is introduced within a team can also make a big difference in how it’s received. If a new way of working is introduced without warning and with no clear reason behind it, employees are likely to feel defensive. When people are told they need to change but aren’t told why, they often think the worst. 

People fear the change

A lot of resistance to change at work comes from a place of fear. Some colleagues may be worried that they won’t be able to get to grips with new software or that they might not be able to adapt to a new process.

The fear of failure and the worry of becoming obsolete is usually what drives resistance. Your team may also be worried about the potential change creating extra work on top of already packed workloads, creating added anxiety and stress.

Overcoming Resistance To Change

Red arrow over building blocksWe’ve seen how people can find change frightening and stressful. The natural reaction is to push back and resist the change to avoid those feelings. In the workplace, this resistance can stop your team from embracing new technology, systems or procedures that might benefit them in the long run by reducing their workload, allowing more time and space for innovation and creativity.

Here are some tips for overcoming change in your finance team:

1. Understanding Why

Rather than simply responding to the symptoms of resistance, like an increase in complaints from your team, try to get to the root cause of the problem. Common root causes could be a lack of awareness around why the change was being made, concerns about the impact it could have on the team and a lack of visible support from management or leadership. Once you know what your team is really concerned about, you can then work with them to reassure them and find solutions.

2. Clear Communication

When you’re planning on implementing change, transparent communication is vital. If your team has a clear understanding of why the change is needed and the benefits it will bring, they’ll be more likely to get on board with it. 

3. Get Your Team Involved

Resistance to change is often a result of a loss of control. If employees feel that they don’t have a say in the proposed change, resentment will quickly grow. Before implementing change, invite your team to offer feedback on the proposed change. Give your team a chance to offer their own ideas as to what the team needs to excel. Involving your team from the beginning will create a sense of ownership, empowerment and engagement.

Final Thoughts

No one likes change. Humans are creatures of habit, and we find change uncomfortable and even painful, particularly in the workplace. That’s why when change is implemented in the workplace, it can often be met with resistance.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Effective change management can help alleviate some of the worries change brings, helping your finance team adjust and embrace change. Clear and timely communication, coupled with proper consultation and staff engagement, will go a long way to helping your team rise to the challenge of change.