Manage Resistance To Change Proactively

Expecting resistance to change and planning for it from the start of your change management progamme will allow you to effectively manage objections.

The key is to start planning as early as possible.

Understanding the most common reasons people object to change gives you the opportunity to plan your change strategy to address these factors.

I've been in potentially difficult situations in large organisations where I've wished this kind of thought had been given to people's reactions to the change, and the way change is implemented. resistance to change angry woman

Spending an hour with employees who suddenly have a vehicle to express their extreme anger can be dangerous and unpleasant. It doesn't take long to realise that you're dealing with a whole new situation and that all your resources will have to be directed to managing resistance. The shame is that the change momentum is lost, and can only be rebuilt once the resistance is managed.

Yet this extreme can be avoided by planning for change resistance. And carefully considering the common reasons for resistance to change listed on this page can give you insight regarding the likely objections you may face.

Using a tool such as the Force Field Analysis in conjunction with the reasons for resistance to change that you feel are applicable is highly recommended.

It's also useful to determine if what you are experiencing is, in fact, resistance to change. We all experience a number of very normal reactions to change, as outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. These need to be planned for and managed, but are not necessarily resistance to change.

Typical reasons for resistance to change

Fear of change: One of the most common reasons for resistance is fear of change. This includes fears of not being good enough and fears of the unknown. It's a bit like the sailors of old who feared the uncharted oceans (Here Be Dragons). The solution? Put it on the map - provide people with role models.

Not being consulted: If people are allowed to be part of the change there is less resistance. They feel heard. Yet, time and again, I encounter resistance due to a lack of involvement. The solution? Involve people in the change as early as possible.

resistance to change stop sign

Poor communication: It's self evident isn't it? I'm sure I don't need to explain this one. WRONG! When it comes to change management there's no such thing as too much communication. The solution? Say it strategically, but don't remain silent.

Changes to routines: When we talk about comfort zones we're really referring to routines. We love them. They make us secure. So there's bound to be resistance whenever change requires us to do things differently.

Whether it's new procedures, new parking places, new reporting lines, or new corporate culture, changes to routines can be uncomfortable. The solution? Show people how it will work and demonstrate the need for change.

Low trust: When people don't believe that they, or the company, can competently manage the change there is likely to be resistance. This may be related to their experience of change in the past. The solution? Communication. Lots of it. And evidence that top management support the change process.

Misunderstanding about the need for change: If staff do not understand the need for change you can expect resistance. Especially from those who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well...and has done for twenty years! The solution? Involve people in the change as early as possible. And find lots of ways to demonstrate why the change is necessary.

Exhaustion/Saturation: Don't mistake compliance for acceptance. People who are overwhelmed by continuous change resign themselves to it and go along with the flow. You have them in body, but you do not have their hearts. Motivation is low. The solution? Answer the all important 'What's In It For Me?' question. Show them how they can benefit fom the change - and maybe provide some incentives along the way.

resistance to change demotivated guy

Change in the status quo: Resistance can also stem from perceptions of the change that people hold. For example, people who feel they'll be worse off at the end of the change are unlikely to give it their full support. Similarly, if people believe the change favours another group/department/person there may be (unspoken) anger and resentment. The solution? Lots of focus groups. Listen carefully for emotions and provide support. This may be in the form of counselling or coaching.

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.
- King Whitney Jr.

Read more change quotes to inspire and motivate.

It's not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change. Expecting that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step. Recognising behaviours that indicate possible resistance will raise awareness of the need to address the concerns.

At the end of the day all sources of resistance to change need to be acknowledged and people's emotions validated. It's far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.




Anticipate resistance with the help of the Force Field Analysis.

Find out more about resistance to change

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