Attachment Theory in the Workplace - Why Some People Resistant Change More than Others

Written By: Kyler Cheatham
Date: August 4, 2022

Attachment theory posits that people have a natural tendency to form close relationships with others and that these relationships are important in shaping our behavior and personality. In the workplace, attachment theory can help explain why some employees are resistant to change or new ideas or technology, while others seem to adapt more easily.

Attachment theory is a relevant and useful framework for understanding professional human behavior. Individuals who are securely attached tend to be more trusting, cooperative, and emotionally stable, while those who are insecurely attached tend to be more suspicious, anxious, and less engaged with their work. The concept of attachment can help explain why some people thrive in the workplace while others struggle.

Attachment Theory and Company Culture

Attachment theory can also help explain how different company cultures may impact employee wellbeing. For example, a company culture that is supportive and encourages close relationships between employees may foster a sense of security and trust, which can lead to better work performance. In contrast, a company culture that is competitive and individualistic may create an environment of anxiety and mistrust, which can lead to poorer work performance.

By understanding how attachment styles may impact employee behavior, companies can create cultures that encourage trust and cooperation, and that ultimately lead to better work performance.

Attachment Theory and Organizational Change Management

Organizational change management is a process of coordinating and implementing changes to an organization. It can be a complex and challenging process, particularly when employees are resistant to change. Attachment theory can help explain why some employees may be more resistant to change than others.

Individuals who are securely attached tend to be more trusting of their colleagues and more likely to cooperate with them. They tend to be emotionally stable and less likely to experience stress in the workplace. In contrast, those who are insecurely attached tend to be more suspicious of their colleagues and less likely to trust or cooperate with them. They may also be more anxious and less engaged with their work.

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The Psychology of Change in the Workplace

Workplace psychology is the study of how people behave in the workplace. It covers a broad range of topics, including job satisfaction, motivation, team dynamics, and stress management. Workplace psychology can help us understand why some people thrive in the workplace while others are uncomfortable. It can also help us create better work environments that support employees' well-being and productivity.

The psychology of change in the workplace is a complex and often challenging topic. Employees may be resistant to change for a variety of reasons, including fear of the unknown, feelings of insecurity, and anxiety about their ability to adapt to new circumstances.

These concepts are especially important to consider when going through a stressful business change like a digital transformation. Understanding the "why" behind employees' behavior can help leadership be mindful about communicating project goals and changes.

Fear of Technology

Technology can be a great asset in the workplace, but it can also be a source of fear and anxiety for some employees. Those who are insecurely attached tend to be more suspicious of technology and may view it as a threat to their job security. They may be less likely to use new technology or adapt to change.

In contrast, those who are securely attached tend to be more trusting of technology and may view it as a tool that can help them in their work. They may be more likely to use new technology and adapt to change.

Thus, attachment theory can provide a power fabric for understanding and managing employee fears about technology in the workplace. By understanding how attachment styles may impact employees' reactions to change, companies can better manage and support employees during times of organizational change. Ultimately, this may lead to better work performance and a more positive work environment.

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Impacts of Lack of Employee Trust

Distrust can hurt revenue, as it can lead to employees feeling less connected with their work and more likely to leave the company. Insecurely attached employees tend to be more distrustful of any change and may perceive any digital transformation as a threat to their job security. This can lead to tension and conflict in the workplace, and may ultimately lead to an expensive and often embarrassing project failure.

How to Identify Resistance to Change

There are a few ways to identify resistance to change:

1. Look for signs of tension or conflict in the workplace. Insecurely attached employees may be more likely to experience tension and conflict with their colleagues.

2. Observe employee behavior. Employees who are resistant to change may avoid using new technology or maybe less engaged with their work.

3. Listen to employee feedback. Employees may express their resistance to change through verbal or written feedback.

4. Conduct surveys. Surveys can help identify employees' attitudes and perceptions about change.

5. Use data analytics. Data analytics can help identify which employees are more likely to resist change.

6. Consult with experts. Organizational culture and change experts can help identify which employees are more likely to experience resistance to change and provide proven methodologies to ensure resistance is appropriately addressed.

How to Address Resistance with Empathy

If your organization is experiencing employee resistance to change, it's important to address your resistance with empathy. Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of another person. Try to understand their perspective and why they may be fearful of new technologies, processes, or policies.

This exercise can help project and executive leadership perceive the situation from their perspective and address the root cause of the fear. It's also important to communicate or address feedback openly and honestly. Opening the door to listening and addressing concerns or unrest will lead to fewer misperceptions and a clear understanding of the purpose of the project. Ultimately, empathy can help reduce resistance to change.

In conclusion, change is a necessary part of organizational life. However, resistance to change is common and can be problematic. Understanding the roots of resistance through the concepts of attachment theory and work-based phycology can more effectively address any issues and mitigate any risks of project failure or loss of revenue.

Change consultants can help organizations overcome resistance to change and implement changes and technology effectively. If you have questions or feedback regarding the psychology of change or need an informal sounding board for your digital transformation project, please feel free to reach out to me directly at kyler.cheatham@thirdstage-consulting.com

Also, check out our newly released 2023 Digital Transformation report which is packed full of OCM tips and proven best practices.

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Author:
Kyler Cheatham
Kyler Cheatham is a digital artist and innovator who is always thinking of new ways to improve the world around her. As the Global Marketing Director at Third Stage Consulting, she uses her creativity and tech-savvyness to help businesses reach their target audiences. Kyler is also a thought leader in the digital marketing space, and she loves sharing her knowledge with others. She is also a mother of two young children, which has given her a unique perspective on balancing work and family life.
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