Change … and the resistance to it!

Change Management CourseAs a team leader, have you ever heard these themes or variations thereof: “My 20 year old system works just fine”; “This is just too complicated, I am never going to be able to run this”; or “Why are we wasting our time with this when we have so much work to do?”

Now, as an effective team leader, you have called meetings with your team to explain why the new process was needed, received the input that was needed to create the best solution, and explained how the new process would improve performance. Suddenly, something went wrong and a lot of resistance and negativity has developed. What happened?

The solution to this type of problem, is to anticipate resistance to change and plan for this resistance from the beginning. Understanding the most common reasons why people object to change gives managers the opportunity to plan the change strategy to address these factors. It’s not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change. However, anticipating that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to deal with it is a required proactive step. Not every possible reason for the resistance to a planned process or business change can be anticipated, but there several behaviors that surface. Also, the more radical the change the more behaviors you are likely to encounter.

Here is a list of some of the more common reasons that teams resist change:

  • Lack of trust and supportLet’s face it. Some organizations are viewed as being untrustworthy because they have demonstrated that they don’t deserve the trust they desire. So, it stands to reason that team members show a lack of trust.
  • Poor communication strategyThe way in which a change process is communicated to teams is a critical factor in determining the reactions to those changes. Every step of the communications should carefully explain the what, why, how, when, who of the new reality. All team members must be guided to understand what success will look like and how success will be measured.
  • Fear of the unknownDuring periods of change, some team members may feel the need to cling to the past because it was a more secure, predictable time. If what they did in the past worked well for them, they may resist changing their behavior because of fear that the future will not provide as much success as the past.
  • Loss of controlFamiliar routines allow teams to maintain a sense of control over their work environment. When they are asked to change the way they operate, it is natural to experience at least some feeling of powerlessness and uncertainty.
  • Lack of competenceIt is hard to admit that they may have some difficulty learning a new process or system and the status of being an expert that engendered respect. As team leaders, we must be sensitive to the fact that some team members may feel that they won’t be able to make the transition as well as expected.
  • Potential job loss – Anyone will resist the changes that result in their roles being eliminated or reduced. From their point of view, your proposed change is viewed as “slick” way to reduce staff.
  • Job satisfactionTeam members that have a high degree of job satisfaction are better able to withstand process or system changes. They are more positive mindset and approach to their work. They can, under ordinary circumstances, agree that change may be a team or organizational necessity. On the other hand, unhappy or unmotivated team members tend to view any change as another annoyance to add to an already long list of grievances or complaints.

Now, let’s explore some methods to help staff cope better with change:

  • Team participationResearch demonstrates that team participation in workplace change can promote “buy-in” to the change initiative and feelings that the change is ‘fair’. Participation can help team members feel more in control of the change and empowered to direct outcomes that impact them and their work and reducing negative change perceptions of fear, frustration and ambiguity. A critical step in helping team members buy in is when they have a say in their destiny. Team members more likely to support a new set of ideas which they have had a key role in shaping;
  • Willingness to compromiseIf team leaders are inflexible and unwilling to compromise, the possibility of team support is jeopardized. When team members are involved in the planning stages, they will often suggest changes that greatly improve the original plan. They will have a vested interest because they are directly impacted by the plan and will want to correct it obvious defects and errors.
  • Acknowledge and reward supportersReinforce any significant movement in the right direction. Let the team members who are early adopters know just how much you appreciate them. As the team leader, you can show your appreciation by creating an email communication and sending a copy to senior management. The earlier you acknowledge the desired behaviors the better. Don’t wait for a complete set of changed behaviors to reward.
  • Provide coaching and trainingTeam members may need new skills or orientation to the phases they will experience during the change process. Don’t overwhelm team members with training, but offer it as needed and with the depth and pace that is required.

Related Articles:   Working Amid Chaos and Constant Change , 1000 Ways to Manage Change … But Here’s Five! and Avoid Change Pains … without seeing a doctor!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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