Managing Change Resistance in Your Organization...

Jessica Thiefels

10 February 2020

Change resistance is normal. We all experience change in our lives at one point or another, whether as a child being moved to a new city or as an employee being shifted within an organization. There are many reasons why we are resistant to change. According to Insights, it can be due to self-interest, misunderstanding, lack of trust, a difference of opinions, low tolerance for change, etc.

This can be especially challenging when dealing with change resistance among stakeholders, employees and other members of the leadership team. Yet, how you manage this inevitable resistance can make or break the success of the changes because you need everyone on board. 

A few tactics you don’t want to use, according to the Implementation Management Associates, include: forcing the change with seemingly logical arguments; dealing with the person, not the issue; ignoring the person’s values, emotions and behaviors; seeking punishment; assuming what is logical to you is logical to the other person; arguing with the person while they state their perceptions; and giving up.

Instead, you need to combat change resistance with basic tactics, such as communication, employee assessment and strategic alliances. 

Combat Fear With Communication

Change resistance isn’t always about being difficult. In many cases, it’s about fear, explains  Shawn Kent Hayashi, executive coach and high-performing teams consultant. “Employees who are resistant to change are unaware of the fear that governs their behavior,” she writes in this article. “Leaders who want to promote growth would do well to remember this.”

The best way to combat fear is with communication—being open and clear about any and all changes, especially those that will affect employees. Here are a few meetings-based communication strategies to implement during times of change:

- Weekly team meetings: These small group meetings can be used to ask questions, share updates and ensure teams are able to communicate to their manager as a group. This also ensures that, on a team level, everyone understands their roles and impact.

- Monthly all-hands meetings: Get everyone in the company in one place so you can field questions and unveil major updates. With the full leadership staff present, employees are able to address their questions to everyone, not just immediate supervisors.

- Personal meetings: Consistently meet one-on-one with employees to manage the fears and concerns they may not want to say aloud in front of their team or the company. This gives you, as a leader, a chance to listen, and them, as an employee, a chance to fully understand what’s happening and what it means for their role.


Find Your Change Influencers

Oftentimes, it’s only a handful of people who are actively resisting a change, which means there are many others who can be recruited as your change influencers. These employees aren’t brought on to push your agenda, but rather to help promote the change while providing insight and support to both leadership and employees. 

“Getting key players on board and letting them act as a sounding board can help senior leaders better understand how change is being perceived, refer recurring issues, and become advocates for the change,” writes Judy Lindenberger, president of The Lindenberger Group, in this article about change management.

This is a strategic method for figuring out what you need to do to get buy-in. Is there a lack of vision? Lack of shared goals? Fear about changing roles that won’t in fact be changing? These change influencers make it easier for leaders to understand the why behind the resistance and create a plan for how to best address the issues with respect, empathy and vision. 

Assess Your Employees

At the end of the day, not everyone will be willing to take on the challenges that change brings with it—and that’s OK. That’s why, to manage this resistance, you need to keep a close eye on who’s doing what and what that means for the business. As Jim O'Malley, founder and managing director of Comhar Partners, explains:

"When moving through major organizational change, it's wise to be assessing talent. With all hands on deck, you can get a clear picture of how teams work, who stands out [and] who’s falling behind. This will indicate where staff changes are needed, based on new company dynamics, needs and culture.”

One way to assess your current talent is with the help of a third-party consultant or firm. Jim says you can also take advantage of leadership assessments like Myers-Briggs or Hogan Assessments. "The more information and data points you have, the more informed your talent assessments will be, the more successful the business will be," explains Jim.

Manage Change Resistance in Your Organization

Resisting change is typical in every area of our lives, but how you handle it as a leader will dictate how successful the change actually is. Use these ideas to understand where the resistance is coming from, in addition to better understanding your employees and leadership team. Most importantly, remember to make communication a key tool in the change-management process to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Fast Company and Entrepreneur. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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