Later this week I am running a workshop on resistance to change and in preparation for it Azusa, our statistician, pulled some very interesting data out of our database of psych test results. The results are shown above. What this shows is that there are some very interesting psychological reasons people resist change.

  • People who are low in resilience resist change – no surprise there.
  • It also shows that people who are high in numerical ability tend to resist change. Fascinating! Could all the folk tales about Accountants, Engineers and other numerically focussed people being change resistant be true? Does numerical ability suggest a more structured view of the world which can be linked with change resistance? Something is going on here.
  • Highly conscientious people are more likely to resist change. This is also fascinating, because conscientiousness is a really good thing at work – a more conscientious workforce performs better and causes less grief (eg Barrick and Mount 1991). However, conscientious people tend to be more change resistant. This has been found previously (eg Saksvik and Hetland 2009). It seems that highly conscientious people have a planned, structured approach to their work which is a benefit in many ways, but may make them less flexible.
  • People who are low in Honesty/Humility resist change. What that means is that arrogant, dishonest people also tend not to like change. There is a stack of research about the bad things which come with low Honesty/Humility, including a tendency to go to jail more often. Here is one more negative.

I think that what this shows is that change resistance comes from many different sources. We will be releasing a new test on change resistance in the next month or so. Click here to find out how to assess your next hire. Also, apologies in advance for those interested in the workshop – it is fully booked, but we will rerun it early next year.

Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 44(1), 1-26.

Saksvik, I. B., & Hetland, H. (2009). Exploring dispositional resistance to change. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 16(2), 175-183.

Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting
Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.
Andrew Marty