Inspiring And Enabling People
To Make A Difference
Whether a change is of epic proportions or is seemingly quite insignificant, a competent change manager needs to anticipate that there will be those within the organization, on any level, that will be resistant to that change.
On some occasions, that resistance is easy to spot, as an individual will register their displeasure in a fairly open and direct manner. That is not usually the case though, as most employees will simply not want to “stick their neck out” in that way. Instead the resistance to change is far more subtle and difficult to recognize immediately.
For instance, at the staff meeting held to discuss the particular changes at hand everyone on the team seemed to enthusiastically accept their new roles and / or circumstances and seemed rather excited about pressing ahead and doing their part. It is not for several weeks (or even longer) that management actually realizes that none of the changes were actually ever implemented and the attitudes displayed at the meeting were little more than an act.
Or the change may have meant that one individual was required to change the way he or she worked on a daily basis. At the implementation of the change they displayed a “will do, you’re the boss” kind of attitude but they actually only change just enough to make it appear on the surface that they have embraced and are implementing the changes. In reality, it is pretty much business as usual. They really haven’t changed the way they do things at all, they liked the old way and they intend to keep hanging on to them for as long as possible.
It is essential that change managers anticipate this resistance and plan strategies for dealing with it before the changes are ever implemented. As I have indicated, there are many different reasons why some employees will resist change and in reality few of them have to do with a desire to challenge anybody’s authority or cause trouble.
Some people may be afraid of the impact that the changes will have on their jobs and their day to day existence as whole. What if the proposed changes are just the start of some bigger plan? Is this the beginning of the end of their job? What is it that management is hiding from them? As you can see much of the resistance a change manager will encounter is borne out of sheer fear.
A good change manager will allay those fears from the beginning. If there is bad news, or there will be a loss of any kind that fact is not hidden but broached in an open manner. The positives of the change are clearly communicated and those affected by the proposed changes given the chance to express their views, opinions and concerns without fear of censure. If communication proceeds in such a manner, there may still be resistance from some quarters, but it will be far less disruptive to the process as a whole. Engaged people are easier to deal with because they feel that the solutions are fair, even if it has a negative impact on them personally.
Whatever happens, when dealing with change, there is far more merit in moving with the quickest than to wait for the slowest. As many change managers will tell you, the bell-curve is relatively accurate when it comes to making change happen; that is, there will be a few people that are excited and a few people that are totally opposed but the bulk of people will feel relatively neutral until they understand the implications better. Your job is to convert the neutrals as quickly as possible and it’s difficult to do it on your own. You need the positive group to help. However, if you’re spending all of your time trying to convert the negative “nay-sayers”, you’ll lose the opportunity to tap into the energy of the positive group and your change project risks never getting off the ground. So keep moving, surround yourself with the growing group of positive people and rely on momentum to pull the rest of the organisation with you when they are ready.