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Managing resistance to change

The modern workplace is an ever-changing landscape; markets, organizations, the labor force, and entire industries have undergone seismic shifts in recent years. These pressures and changes are only going to continue through the near future.

A persistent problem for businesses is employee resistance to change. Change is unavoidable in today’s fickle economy, so it is up to the leaders to carefully design and implement change initiatives in addition to developing a change resistance strategy.

Reasons for Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is an extremely common problem thanks to human nature. People are wired to look for patterns that indicate predictability. But change defies patterns and creates uncertainty, the perfect breeding ground for discontent and anxiety.

Beyond the overall fear of the unknown, there are many reasons for employee hesitancy, such as the following:

· Lack of Trust – This is often connected to the leader or leadership team.

· Loss of Stature or Security – Employees worry that their role will be reduced or eliminated.

· Fear of Failure – There could be unease about failure of the entire plan or the individual’s performance.

· Too much change – There is too much change happening at once or has been ongoing change for an extended period of time.

· Poor Communication – Even if the plans are sound, they need to be communicated to staff in a timely manner.

5 Strategies to Minimize Resistance to Change

You can minimize and potentially completely avoid resistance to change by incorporating these four simple strategies into your change initiatives:

1. Discuss What is in it for Them

Start with outlining the purpose for the change and how accomplishing these objectives will directly help themselves and the team.

Your team is more likely to trust your leadership if you demonstrate a clear direction for the change initiative. Outlining how the change benefits staff illustrates that you care about and are considering their perspective. Employee’s will be more motivated to work harder towards the objective if they see the personal advantages.

2. Involve the Executive Team

Employees will naturally take cues on behaviours and company norms from executives. Your C-levels and upper management need to be engaged in communicating change initiatives and signaling their support in front of the staff. The executives do not necessarily need to be involved in implementing the program or managing resistance to change, but their actions should set the example of having faith in the transition.

3. Communicate Effectively

Clearly inform staff about what the changes involve, the timeline of the roll out, and the expectations there are for employees. State the goals clearly as well as how they will positively impact the employees.

Be conscientious about when the information is divulged. Waiting too long until the transition is about to launch neglects the amount of time employees may need to process the imminent adjustments. Remember to take the method of communication into consideration as well. In many cases an all-staff meeting can be the appropriate vehicle to deliver the initial news. Further, rely on follow-up communications to constructively reinforce your points. This could be in the form of emails, a specified messaging channel, or team meetings.

4. Make it About Individuals

You must account for the human impact of organizational adjustments, the failure to do so is a major reason for resistance to change.

Consider one-on-one meetings between team members and their supervisors to assess their adaptation. Encourage forthright conversations and a method for tracking employee progress. Managers should also offer guidance and resources to their reports, in addition to organizing training programs that fill in skills gaps and ease hesitant workers into the change strategy.

5. Anticipate Cultural Shifts

There are a variety of change initiatives, with the two broadest categories being technical (operational) and social. Operational changes frequently inspire cultural adjustments.

Managing resistance to change means anticipating cultural shifts that arise from paradigm shifts. Any variations in the social order should be directed towards positive outcomes, like an improved manager-team communications or enhanced employee education programs.

Managing Resistance to Change

Despite your best efforts, there will always be intransigent employees that fight the changes coming their way. Resistance to change manifests in overt behaviour, such as increased resignations or reduced productivity; it can also present more subtly, like with an uptick in complaints. A good leader is attentive to these clues and swiftly intervenes.

After the resistance to change has been identified, the next step is to determine the cause for this resistance. Speak with the employees to dig-up their concerns. Be careful not to take employee concerns at face value. If you dig a little deeper, you may find underlying operational or cultural dysfunctions contributing to employee unease.

For example, if there isn’t enough awareness of the full implications of the initiative, consider finding a more effective method of communication to support employee understanding and the acceptance of change.

Another situation may look like a team which is in the habit of taking directives verbatim from managers or headquarters. The new operational changes will require that the team follow the spirit rather than the letter of instructions. The team needs a cultural adjustment which can inspire them to interpret managerial guidance and implement it in their own way.

Managing change resistance in employees will require a hands-on leader who understands and appreciates the human impact that change initiatives have on employees, and collaborates closely with workers to ensure they adjust to the changes.

Priority Management is a worldwide company with more than 50 offices world-wide. Our programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline.

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Clients range from small business, government/military employees to Fortune 500 companies.

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