“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
Starting something new will always be harder than maintaining the status quo. Scientifically speaking, it is proven that it is more difficult to create motion than maintain one because you have to change the “speed” right from zero to some value. This change of speed will require force and this force will result in work, thus energy is needed. But after the speed is no longer zero, you just need to exert effort to compensate the lost energy due to friction which is lesser than the energy required in starting the motion. Another scientific explanation is the presence of Inertia, or the natural tendency of objects to resist changes in their state of motion. Because of inertia, objects keep on “doing what they are doing” unless an external force comes along and changes its state.
These concepts can also be applied in understanding the behavior of people, particularly employees in the workplace. Based on my observation, there are two kinds of situations where employees tend to resist change. The first one is the changes in their working environment. Whenever a new policy or system is to be implemented, the initial reaction of employees is to complain and question why such changes are needed, especially when they feel like nothing is wrong with the current setup. But after the transition is over, everyone starts to accept the changes like it has always been there and will gradually forget how it was before.
Recently, our company implemented a new dress code policy and the most controversial provision is the requirement for females to wear black shoes with a minimum of 1-inch heel every day, including Friday, our wash-day. It became a big issue because, first, most females prefer to wear flat shoes since it is a struggle to wear heels when commuting in the Philippines (imagine riding the train in a stiletto); and second, it is not very “fashionable” because the color of our uniform does not match the black shoes and it may clash with their chosen OOTD during Friday. But since it is a new policy for strict implementation, everyone had no choice but to comply. At first, you will see it in their faces how much they hate that policy every morning upon entry in the building but eventually, they all got used to it. A month after the implementation, it became a normal thing, like it always has been that way. Resistance to change is a natural reaction but once you accept the change, it can be an ordinary thing in the long run.
The second situation where employees tend to resist change is when the change is needed for their own personal improvement. Many employers are willing to finance the trainings, seminars, and post-graduate studies of interested employees for an equivalent number of years of service obligation in the company. While most employees want to increase their knowledge, enhance their skills, and improve their talents, they opt not to accept the offer because they do not want to be bound by the required number of years of service obligation.
But this is not always the case. There are employees who do not mind the service obligation but still won’t accept the offer because they have things that they are not willing to give up once they choose that path. An employee may want to enroll in a four-month review session and take an international certification to be marketable globally, but hesitate in doing so because he or she would have to give up equally important things like sleep and travel. On the other hand, there are also employees who are no longer interested in further studies and would like to remain in their comfort zones. They want to maintain their present situation than start something new which, as scientifically explained earlier, takes up a lot of energy.
There will always come a time when an “unbalanced force” will disrupt your current state whether you like it or not. In the end, it all depends on how you react to the changes around you and how long will it take you to adapt to that change. After all, change is the only permanent thing in this world.
Alessandra Jill G. Plofino is an MBA student of the De La Salle University Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This article was part of the requirements of the course, Strategic Human Resource Management.