Coaching Clinic – How Do You Deal With An Employee Who’s Resisting Change?

“Mary has been with the company 11 years. Under the old owner, she had special privileges around work hours and tardiness. The new owner has made policy changes and expects everyone to abide by them. Mary, if she doesn’t get her way, pouts and complains to other employees. What can I do as her boss?”

A frustrated accounting manager, Dan, asked me how to solve this problem. The leader faces a classic change management issue – how to deal with people who don’t comply or drag their feet when asked to change. First, let’s look at three categories of employees when it comes to adapting to workplace change.

  1. Advocates: 15 to 20% of employees. They already understand the change effort. Therefore, praise them publicly, support them as needed and get out of their way.
  2. Don’t get it: 15 to 20% of employees. They resist change at every opportunity and may sabotage change efforts. They are tied to the past. These are not bad people, just no longer compatible with the organization. Unfortunately, too many managers spend way too much time trying to convert them to the new program.
  3. Moveable middle: 60 to 70% of employees. They are on the fence, not sure if they can or will buy into the new program. This is the audience a manager must spend most of his time and energy. The moveable middle can be swayed with the right leadership. Combined with the first group, you have a critical mass to implement the changes.


If, after coaching this problem employee, you conclude that she falls in the second group, then the answer is to find a way to gracefully exit her from the company. Realize that those in the first or third category will be watching how she is managed. Find a way to praise her past efforts and exit her professionally and with grace. Other employees will respect this.

Smart Moves Tip:

Any change effort is likely to face a few change resisters. Unfortunately, even if these resisters are few, they can erode momentum and stop change in its tracks. The best time to attack resistance is early in meetings and individually. Find out the concerns and work together on problems people are experiencing. If they still resist, point out the consequences. Don’t hope it will get better – it won’t! Also see When Change Arrives, Who Cheers and Who Jeers! and Why Change Is So Hard and How to Make It Easier!

Did You Know That a New Kind of SMARTS is Needed?
75% of leaders are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including the inability to handle people problems, unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust. – Center for Creative Leadership. Do you want to boost your emotional and social intelligence and be a more effective leader? Let me help you do it!


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. This is an attitude problem and those are really tough to fix. Particularly in a case where it has been developing and tolerated for a long period of time.

    I recommend two warning shots over the bow as in a talk in the office backed by a written warning in her personnel file. If that doesn’t fix the problem, and it probably won’t, then terminate her. Her attitude will poison many of the other employees and do irreparable damage to morale.