Have you ever tried to implement a change initiative within your organization only to be met with resistance and pushback from employees? Change can create uncertainty within an organization, prompting resistance, and contributing to failed initiatives.
Why Are People Resisting?
Resistance can culminate for a variety of reasons. Employees may resist change when they have an unclear understanding of…
- why the change is being implemented
- the impact the change will have on them personally (e.g., new skills will be required, their expertise may no longer be required or applicable, relocation, their role becoming obsolete, or that power will be redistributed)
- the impact that the change will have on the organizational culture
What Does Resistance Look Like?
Resistance can exist within an organization passively, where there is no evidence of resistance on the surface, but individuals resist through their inaction.
Or, resistance can exist at a very visible level and manifest itself through more public demonstrations of resistance such as arguments, outbursts, or personal attacks.
When not addressed, resistance to a change initiative can be one of the primary sources of implementation delays or project failure. Change that is implemented in a logical, systematic, and rational manner can still face resistance.
The only constant an organization can depend on is change.
How can an organization prepare for and manage resistance?
Resistance to change can and should be anticipated and addressed early in the change process:
- Build and Promote Buy-in: Changes that are adopted versus mandated are often met with less resistance thus increasing, but not ensuring, the likelihood of success. It is important that stakeholders feel as though they are a part of the change and that there is value in their participation and contributions; rather than, that the change is happening to them. Promoting a culture that identifies the change as participatory rather than mandatory will help reduce the potential for resistance.
- Clear and Consistent Communication: Communicating the WWWH:
- Why is the change happening?
- What is the value and importance of each individuals’ contributions and how will they lead to a greater opportunity for successful implementation?
- When will the change initiative begin and what is the projected timeline?
- How will the change impact the organization and stakeholders (including employees)?
Through exploring and answering these questions, stakeholders will gain the information necessary to formulate questions, articulate concerns, and prepare for the upcoming change.
- Creating a Flexible and Resilient Organizational Culture: Organizations must have the ability to bounce back and recover from the stress and organizational strain created by change. This must be considered in the change process. An organization that does not have a flexible and resilient culture can face greater disruption and reduce the opportunity for success. Flexibility and resilience can be demonstrated and reinforced by an organization’s willingness to adapt to challenges and pivot as needed in order to maintain the momentum of the change initiative. If a plan or approach isn’t working, a flexible organization will explore opportunities to fine tune its approach, learn from these challenges, and adjust accordingly.
- Promoting and Maintaining Trust: This is a necessary component that must be promoted and maintained from the top down. Managers/leadership can reduce resistance by encouraging and sustaining trust with stakeholders. In order to promote trust within the organization, managers can provide learning opportunities, leadership and management development training, coaching, mentor/mentee opportunities, and performance evaluations that establish clear expectations to engage employees in the organization and in the change process. Leadership should provide opportunities for stakeholders to ask questions and have a dialogue about the change initiative.
While change initiatives can create uncertainty within an organization, the implementation of the four outlined practices of preparing for and managing resistance will better position your organization for success. Success in the implementation of change will result in a more dynamic organization better equipped for an ever changing environment.
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