Common sense solutions for commonplace problems at work

You Can Manage Resistance to Change

Do you want to know how to manage employee resistance to change? In an earlier article, Why Do Employees Resist Change? I brought you nine strategies that work and three that don’t when avoiding causing and managing employee resistance to change.

Recognize that the actions of the change team, the senior leadership team or whatever group is leading the charge are the culprits in most instances of employee resistance to change.

What Management Must Do Right

Employees don’t usually mind changing if they were properly consulted and feel as if they had the opportunity to influence the changes. If there is widespread agreement that the areas that need changes are perceived as needing changes, the majority of employees will try them out.

Management’s commitment to making the changes and their thoughts about the changes transparent is critical to the employees’ acceptance of change. Employees mind being changed so the changes cannot feel as if the changes are being forced on them.

Over communicating who, what, why, when, where, and how and involving employees in decisions when the changes are expected to have an impact on their work are also critical components when organizations decide to change.

Dealing with Employee Resistance

Resistance is difficult to manage in a group setting. You can communicate to your employees in a group setting, but resistance is an internal reaction that varies from person to person. It’s not something that you can address well in a group setting.
Consequently, the method for addressing resistance presented here is most effective at the individual level. This overall approach to managing resistance is a tested, proven, powerful way to help employees overcome their fears, concerns, and problems that lead to them resisting change.

Viewing employee resistance as a normal reaction to change can help the change leadership team and managers manage resistance effectively. Listening to resisting staff members can provide useful information for improving the implementation of the changes.

4 Step Method to Manage Employee Resistance to Change

The following four-step approach is an effective response to resistance. Normally, the employee’s manager would help the employee through the four steps.

Surface the resistance. When someone appears to be resisting the change by behaving either withdrawn, quiet and angry or striking out, complaining, and refusing to go along with the changes, you want to bring their feelings to the surface.
Ask the employee to express their feelings. Make the communication of their resistance as safe as possible. You do this by eliminating any negative consequences of admitting to resistance.

For example, you would never respond using words like, “You can’t possibly feel that way,” or, “This is the way it’s going to be. Just get over it.”

Honor the resistance and show empathy to the resistor. Listen, really listen to the person. Use the power of active listening. Ask questions to make certain that you thoroughly understand the person’s viewpoint.

Acknowledge the resistance by affirming the person’s right to resist. You can do this without agreeing with the resistor.
Explore the resistance. Determine if the employee’s resistance is directed toward the actual changes or if it is the result of feelings such as resentment of authority, anger because the team didn’t include him in decision making, or a need for more attention than he is receiving.

Use problem solving techniques to determine how you can create a win-win situation. Help the resisting employee take action to make a more positive change to reduce the resistance. Set and agree on the action items that the employee – and possibly – you will need to do.

Recheck the status of the resistance. Periodically, as you move forward with the changes, recheck with the employee to see the status of his resistance. Check, too, to make sure that the employee is keeping up his end of the agreements that you made at the Explore step. These meetings or checkpoints should continue until you believe that the employee has accepted the changes and is participating.

This four-step method for helping an employee through a resistance stage should help the employee turn his resistance into acceptance and maybe even enthusiasm. Seeing the positive results that stem from changing also helps employees participate in change.

No positive results yet? The change team or senior managers need to do contingency planning to determine what needs to happen to accomplish the goals of the changes.

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