Top 6 Strategies to Overcome Resistance to Change
Jane loves the new brand of coffee in the coffee machines. Steve is thrilled with the new project management software. The sales team is delighted with the new management structure. Everything is going smoothly.
Sound familiar? No, probably not. Employees rarely take to change so easily. That’s because resistance to change is a natural human instinct.
That’s why effectively mitigating resistance to change is a critical skill for management.
This guide will help you overcome employee resistance to ensure your change initiatives succeed.
What is resistance to change and why does it occur?
To put it simply, change is scary — and challenging. Maintaining an existing habit is easier than changing. Trying something new means there is a possibility of failure. Most people prefer to stay in their comfort zone than venture into unknown territory.
Even individuals who claim to enjoy change may find it challenging in the workplace. After all, choosing to make a change in one’s personal life is very different than accepting top-down organizational change. Resistance to change in the workplace occurs because most often employees don’t have a choice. This triggers a sense of lost control and uncertainty.
Imagine organization-wide new software implementation. As an employee, you are competent using the old platform, and don’t necessarily understand the need for a new system. What you do understand is: This will require effort to relearn basic functions. Consciously or subconsciously, you might fear the change will hurt your job performance.
Too often, employees focus on what may be lost, rather than what can be gained.
Who resists change?
While there is a misconception that change only affects low level employees, this is not the case. Change affects everyone in an organization from maintenance to upper management. Additionally, resistance has nothing to do with intelligence. Not even the smartest among us are not immune to the scariness of impending changes.
The Benefits of Resistance to Change
Contrary to common belief, resistance to change is not inherently bad. In fact, it can actually be a good thing.
First, it forces management to choose their battles carefully. Employee pushback begs the question, “Is this change going to drive significant growth?” In other words, is this worth it? This helps ensure resources aren’t thrown into initiatives that don’t have a clear payoff.
Second, it encourages planning and communication. Management must identify where resistance will likely occur and come in with a game plan to prevent it.
So now that we are a little less frightened of change, and resistance of it, let’s explore how to best manage employees during organizational change.
Managing and Overcoming Resistance to Change in the Workplace
Effective change management is all about understanding what underlies resistance to change. From there, you can address your employees’ biggest concerns.
The Top 6 Strategies to Overcome Resistance to Change:
#1 Listen First, Talk Second
The first strategy to overcome resistance to change is to communicate. Communication is key — you already knew that. However, try letting your employees initiate the conversation. People want to be heard, and giving them a chance to voice their opinions will help alleviate the frustration they feel over the situation.
What’s more, your employees thoughts, concerns and suggestions will prove wildly valuable to steer your change project. At the very least, understanding them will help you pinpoint the root of employee resistance to change.
#2 Communicate the Reasons for Change
The next strategy to overcome resistance to change is to communication the why, what and how. Develop a communication plan that is more than just telling your employees what you want them to do. Effective communication segments and targets each audience, focusing on what they care about and need to know. Underline why this change will benefit them.
#3 Get Excited
How you communicate the change has a huge impact on how much resistance to change will occur. If you wholeheartedly communicate the reasons for change, your conviction will be contagious. Any hesitancy will undermine the operation.
#4 Make it About Employees
Change is only possible if your human resources are on board, so make sure changes are approached in terms of the employee. If you are implementing a new software system — plan your project through the lens of user adoption rather than focusing on the technology. It’s not about what the technology can do, it is about what the user can do with the help of this new technology.
#5 Delegate Change
A great strategy to overcome resistance to change is: Fight resistance with culture. Train team members who are natural leaders first. They will serve as role models and influencers for the rest of your employees. This has a ripple effect.
#6 Show Them the Data
While resistance to change is usually emotional rather than logical, it can be helpful to use some hard facts as a supplementary strategy. Let your employees see the data for themselves. This is a great way to simultaneously show transparency and demonstrate the need for improvement.