Resistance to change is normal and predictable. Knowing what’s behind the resistance and preparing a plan of action before making the change leads to a better outcome.
Making a change in an established process within any organization is often met by staff resistance that could range from avoidance or passive aggressive behavior all the way to defiance and hostility. Experts in change management say that resistance is predictable and more or less universal when new procedures are put into place. The key to overcoming it is to create a strategic plan of action and put it into place before the change is made.
A blog on Forbes.com by contributor Lisa Quast takes a look at the main reasons people resist change:
Fear of the unknown/surprise. People need to receive adequate warning and help in understanding why the change is being made and how it will affect their job. When change is implemented without advance notice, people usually push back because of their fear of the unknown.
Mistrust. Managers who are new to their posts and haven’t yet earned the trust of their employees are much more likely to generate mistrust when they announce a change. Managers who are highly respected and have earned trust over a period of time often get a more positive reaction to the announcement of change.
Loss of job security and control. It’s no surprise that resistance usually accompanies any change leading to restructuring and/or downsizing. People are apprehensive that they will lose their jobs, departments will consolidate positions, or they will be put into new positions without their input.
Bad timing. If too much change is foisted on employees at one time, over too short a period, at the wrong time, or without tact and empathy, resistance among employees will pretty much be a sure thing.
An individual’s predisposition toward change. Although there may be employees who enthusiastically embrace change because of the positive benefits it can bring the company or themselves personally, it’s just as likely that some people prefer a set routine and resist change to the status quo.
By being aware of and prepared for these triggers of resistance, managers can help implement change much more smoothly. The Forbes contributor goes on to advise managers to think through what the change will include, who it will impact, and anticipate how they might react. Before making an announcement, be sure to have the answers ready to create a sense of stability and to allay any unnecessary fears.
The goal is letting people know change is coming, asking for input from employees, involving some before the change comes if possible, and creating a timetable of what to expect and when. This should be done in nearly every instance, even when only minor adjustments are called for. For instance, if a change is coming that will replace a manual procurement process with an automated one, employees need to know exactly how the decision will impact their scope of work, their work procedures, etc.
Change may still be painful, but when it’s implemented professionally – with forethought and empathy – managers can avoid a hostile, confused reaction and productively move their organization forward.
Read the full Forbes blog here.