Leaders, Are You Confusing Change Fatigue & Change Resistance?

Most leaders trigger change. Some are constantly pulling the trigger and often with disastrous results. If you are a leader who craves change, ask yourself:

Do you see change fatigue?


Think it’s all change resistance?

Leaders, Are You Confusing Change Fatigue & Change Resistance? Image by:Cayusa

I see a great deal of change resistance as I consult to organizations. Most leaders and consultants focus on this for it is the big challenge of moving an organization forward.

I also see some leaders whose leadership philosophy breeds change fatigue. They are either very high drivers or high idea generators and often quite unaware that they are pulling the trigger far too often.

They see change fatigue as just more change resistance and continue on unchanged (ironically enough) with the same leadership behaviors.

They also convince themselves that because their goal is success, the difference between change fatigue and change resistance is irrelevant. Quite the opposite is true.

Change resistance occurs when people are still committed to the organization albeit the current picture.

Change fatigue can sever their ability to be committed to the organization and redirect it to individual survival.

Moreover, change fatigue can neutralize your strongest proponents of change — those that aren’t resisting. Even they feel lost, disconnected, and incapable of achievement. Once this engine of change is shot, you and your organization can achieve very little.

Change fatigue will most likely occur when your leadership vision is driven by the treasure hunt syndrome or when your vision constantly changes.

The leaders and teams that report to you barely start to work on one initiative or direction when you reset and redirect. Although some of this happens in every organization, as a leadership style it can leave all exasperated, fatigued and disconnected.

The biggest risk of change fatigue is that organizational performance suffers.
As a leader you are focusing on future success while the floor you are standing on is sagging beneath you. The new one you are trying to lay has poor supports as well.

  • Your direct reports begin to delegate some of their responsibilities to their teams whether they are skilled or experienced enough to handle it or not. The outcomes are substandard.
  • Collaboration and teamwork erode because the current path becomes a grapevine of misunderstandings.
  • Their exasperation undermines their respect and trust for you and your leadership.

Change Loving Leaders — Prevent Change Fatigue!

  1. Build the culture that goes with your vision. If you as a leader crave high innovation and change, then inspire a fun, creative, learn-from-mistakes type culture.

    Do you encourage all the employees to noodle new ideas? Participating in creativity breeds a more positive feeling about change.

    Or are you mistakenly reserving that privilege for yourself or a select few and holding all others responsible for the implementation and delivery? High driver leaders are prone to this misstep.

  2. Ensure you understand what it takes to implement. Employees who shine at implementation and operation must see that your vision sees the reality of effort needed. You need these employees that can actually plan, build, or coordinate the building of those new processes, products or services. Do they see that you value and respect their talent for staying the course to the end to make these changes happen?
  3. Procure extra resources to implement all your new ideas or make clear what can truly be pushed aside. If the myriad of ideas and changes you envision are to happen, then back fill the operations with additional contractors to truly allow the full time staff to work on the exciting new changes.
  4. Communicate with the employees not to the employees. That does not mean they can set any vision they wish. Yet, the dialogue helps you to see a clearer picture of what’s needed for innovation and gives them a better understanding of what is possible going forward.

Knowing the difference between change resistance and change fatigue strengthens your success quotient.

  • – Fatigue is something you cause which can even crush the spirit of your change proponents.
  • – Resistance occurs within employees. You can ease and eliminate it with great communication, clear vision, and active employee engagement.
  • Address change resistance — prevent change fatigue. Fatigue is a pricey diversion with long lasting effects.

    From my professional experience to your success,
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

    Related Posts:
    Leaders, Leading Change Requires Networking Our Inspiration

    5 Keys to Succeeding with Leaders Who Crave Change

    ©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

    20 Responses to “Leaders, Are You Confusing Change Fatigue & Change Resistance?”

    1. Khalid says:

      Hi Kate,

      I loved that post! It is a clear link to the previous one and it gave answer to my earlier query.

      I see one more dimension which have to be included in your post which is the change drivers! Now when we talk about a business vision, we talk about a long term plan that should be lived by all members under the roof of the organization. Changes in vision shouldn’t happen more often. But whatever change happens, it should happened for a reason!

      I see leaders should always link their long term planning with KPIs during the action plan to achive such vision. KPIs (or performance indiciators in general) might act as a reason for CHANGE. Such tangable measures would make the employees understands any changes to fix any deviation from the expected result.

      The vision is lived by all employees including the leader and unless the change is well explained and communicated (as you just mentioned), it will have resistence and might also have fatigue if done more often.

      Thanks Kate for the enlightment 🙂


      • Kate Nasser says:

        Many thanks Khalid. I like the focus you put on connecting change to a purpose and communicating it clearly. There is tremendous power in communication.

        Always thrilled to have your practical insights on these posts.

        Best to you!

    2. Kate, Brilliant Article! I love change, but have learned over time that change needs to function like a roller coaster – with a resting space between the thrills so that everyone can catch their breath and settle in. With the right environment, there can be joy in that – and everyone joins in the innovative spirit.


      • Kate Nasser says:

        Great “twist” on the roller coaster analogy Georgia! There are spots to breathe before the next loop. So pleased to have your contribution here.

        Regards and thanks!!!

    3. MIke Brown says:

      Wow, Kate…so many places to go with this post. I worked for someone who was coming up with ideas all the time. It became evident after some time that he didn’t expect us to act on every idea. Once I had that insight, things were a lot easier. I characterized it as being a batter in baseball. The pitcher was going to be throwing a lot of pitches. Some were meant to be swung at; others were outside the strike zone; still others you’d take as a called strike without swinging because you’d just swung at another pitch. This became my way to cope and to continue to perform. When new people joined the team, I’d see them trying to swing at every idea coming their way and share this perspective with them to help minimize their change fatigue.

      Very thought provoking post!



      • Kate Nasser says:

        Hi Mike,
        With your focus on innovation/change, I was hoping you would find this post thought provoking! Your pitcher/batter analogy is quite effective and I think it will help many who are initially frustrated by “ideas leaders”. Nice of you to share it with your colleagues.

        Perhaps this type of leader would do well to tell new hires this when they first arrive.

        Many thanks and I hope you will offer more of your insights on any post that gets your attention.

        Warmest thanks,

    4. Dana Theus says:

      Very insightful. As a change oriented leader and consultant I think you’re very right about the downside to change management. I actually don’t believe humans are resistant to change, I believe they’re resistant to change they haven’t bought into. If a leader doesn’t build her internal coalitions to support the change initiative – coalitions that will be supported by the broader organization – then they’re just blowing smoke. Unfortunately this is hard to do and requires a savvy and skilled leader! I love this subject and will see if I can gin up a responsive post. Thanks for writing this.


      • Kate Nasser says:

        THANKS Dana. It’s a subject of great interest to me — as you can well see. Please let me know of your next post on change. So much to learn!

    5. Randy Conley says:

      Great points Kate! Sometimes I think leaders can get a little ADD when it comes to change. We desire change and growth, but can easily get addicted to the adrenaline rush of shaking things up rather than doing the hard work of seeing a change through. Sometimes (most times) we’d be better off seeing a change through to completion rather than moving on to the next flavor of the month.

      Best regards,


      • Kate Nasser says:

        Ooh Randy — ADD — could well be. I think some do get a rush from it (i.e. treasure hunt) and don’t see the effect on others. Not great leadership in any case if little is achieved.

        Thank you for weighing in on this. Hope you will share your insights and links on other posts here at Smart SenseAbilities(tm).

        Best regards,

    6. Hi Kate!

      I think another aspect of change fatigue is weariness of leaders who are always creating the next wave of fear and urgency. At some point, people “buy out” because it looks like a manipulative strategy to wring more energy from people. Anyone with fatigue suddenly becomes a resistor rather than a loyal challenger of the process, while those who maintain, or seem to maintain, a “positive attitude” look like heroes.

      This just divides people and make the change process political. When every change appears to be an overlay of the last crisis, people sense the urgency is less authentic and there simply to control. NOTHING drives people away and totally exhausts them like this kind of perceived lying. It isn’t a a matter of employees being involved. It’s the belief that top management is pounding simply because it can, placing everyone’s job at risk.

      While that may or may not be true, leaders need to be aware of the stereotyping and old cultural norms they may be triggering.
      Senior folks may be operating out of genuine belief, real loyalty or personal compliance — but it doesn’t matter if the net effect is sensed by people as the same old game from the same old regime. The cure isn’t better “buy-in,” that’s for sure. And it’s not some formula for “engagement.”

      What can make a difference is the leaders’ self-confrontation regarding how they are behaving, why they are behaving in this way, and their actual vs. intended impact. It takes very sensitive, strong leadership to have the guts to manage change in this reflective way, and without being seduced by the usual fantasies, hot formulas, and hopeful self-deceptions (some sold for a lot of money by well-intended consultants).

      Best to you!

      • Kate Nasser says:

        Quite true in some cases Dan — it can be seen as manipulation or lying. It can also be seen as “leader doesn’t really know what will work so s/he keeps trying everything”.

        Your assessment of the emotional impact on everyone I think is straight on. Regardless of the reason, the interpretation and reactions seem to be the same.

        Many thanks for all your contributions to these discussions.

    7. Ranjit Sidhu says:

      Hi Kate,
      You make a very interesting and important distinction in this piece. As you say some leaders or organizations will be more prone to falling into this problem and clear prioritization is absolutely key.

      People also need to know the reasons, the ‘WHY’, behind the change so they can understand the wider context and buy-in to it or challenge appropriately, rather than just switch off.

      Looking forward to reading more.
      Best wishes,

      • Kate Nasser says:

        Thank you Ranjit. So many of us as consultants see the difference and the harmful effects of change fatigue. I guess a bit of distance gives a clearer view.

        I hope you will share your perspective on any post here — and keep the discussions going.

        Warmest thanks and regards,

    8. Great post. I was wondering though how much of the endless change is leadership driven or responses to circumstances changing endlessly.

      There is often an idea that change is something you do and then everything settles down again when the reality is often just as one change is bedded down, new pressures emerge and more change is required -sometimes back in the direction we have just come!

      If the culture is one which embraces or even better encourages it, then change fatigue is less likely.
      Great to be connected on twitter btw!

      • Kate Nasser says:

        Hi Andy,
        I can picture companies that I have worked with where what you describe is absolutely true. Often change is driven by ever changing conditions. However, I have also witnessed leaders changing things constantly — without conditions requiring it — all to magnify their appearance of greatness.

        Change fatigue can develop in either case yet it is far less sustainable in the second circumstance.

        Many thanks for your perspective and I too am glad we are connected on Twitter.


    9. Lynn Burke says:

      Great post. I work for an organization that is a constant state of perpetual change. Changes are implemented, whether or not it makes sense, management never consults the people who are affected or get employees to buy into the changes. It shows in the employee engagement results and the high turnover. How do you get management to listen up? Or is it pointless and time for me to look for another job after 6 long years.
      Kind Regards,
      Lynn Burke

      • Kate Nasser says:

        Hi Lynn,
        There are experts out there who say that change comes from the ranks not from the top down. Yet I haven’t seen it happen when the leadership believes in what they believe. With 6 years of high turnover, constant change, etc… something must be propelling them to keep on doing things they way they do them. Is it profitable? Is there no driving economic reason for them to shift gears?

        You alone can decide what is best for you. Yet if you are thinking “it will change and be better”, I wouldn’t hold my breath. If you have a voice they will listen to and facts, data, or a compelling case to make then that is another choice for you. If you can endure the perpetual change by focusing in the moment, then stay. If it is demoralizing you, then at least think about what will make you happy.

        You live only one life…

        Best wishes,

    10. Ian R. says:

      Hi Kate, I was looking for just such an article to explain some behaviours in a credible and concise way. Very much appreciated.

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