The Real Reason People Won’t Change

by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

EVERY MANAGER IS FAMILIAR with the employee who just won’t change. Sometimes it’s easy to see why—the employee fears a shift in power, the need to learn new skills, the stress of having to join a new team. In other cases, such resistance is far more puzzling. An employee has the skills and smarts to make a change with ease, has shown a deep commitment to the company, genuinely supports the change—and yet, inexplicably, does nothing.

What’s going on? As organizational psychologists, we have seen this dynamic literally hundreds of times, and our research and analysis have recently led us to a surprising yet deceptively simple conclusion. Resistance to change does not reflect ...

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