Change Management: What happens in our brains when we try to change?

It is hard for us to adapt to change. How does our brain adapt to new data and what stages does one go through as they accept the changes?

Jennie Kamaradou, an occupational psychologist with experience in human resources management, explains how to deal with change management in work environments and what motivates working groups to embrace a new work reality.


Sometimes we are motivated, but it is not enough for us to change. The brain has an organizing principal. This is to stay away from threat and to move towards reward.

The default of the brain is to perceive the events happening around us as a threat and change is threating. Anything that is different in our lives is perceived as a threat by our brain. When we feel threatened, we divert to old habits. That is why change is so hard.


Creating new habits is possible, but attention density, intense focus (quality) and repetition (quantity) is necessary. When we are trying to change, mental habit motivation is not enough, because the brain will feel threatened and will go back to old habits.

We go back to the familiar thinking that makes us feel comfortable and safe. We never forget how to do an old habit. We can create new habits, but it gets difficult when we are under threat.


Change management – Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators

Historically the typical way of introducing change is through the carrot/stick method. Reward or punishment to achieve change in behavior or habit. These are external motivators, and they do not have long term duration.

Intrinsic motivation in more powerful than external motivators. Everyone has a different intrinsic value order. We all rank needs like status, uncertainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness differently. The first thing leaders need to do to create habit change in their organization is to understand each employee’s value prioritization.

For some status and reputation are highly prioritized, for others it may be fairness and the sense of equity. For some certainty and security is an essential need and for others it is autonomy and the feeling of being able to control their future.


Read also: Does remote working affect creativity?

Manage changes better in the work environment and increase the productivity of all team members. Find out more about how your team members feel about change. Start by taking the Quintax® Psychometric Test. Contact us at or book a free consultation with Jennie Kamaradou.