Managing Resistance to Change

In an ever-expanding world, change adaptability is one of the truest measures of continued success. Good executives are aware of where (and when) the tide is turning and call for change to see their fortunes flourish only to find resistance. 

That’s where competent organisational change management comes in. 

Company leaders often feel that while managing resistance to change may be difficult, effective leadership and change management increases the likelihood of a smooth transition to the next thing. 

Change comes in all shapes and sizes. It could major alterations that sends a company or non-profit in a new direction. It may include changing the culture or core values of the organisation; changing the ‘way things are done around here’ (hint: culture), or changing strategic direction. The changes also seep into the general working environment of the organisation, and resistance by employees and management may be a reality.


Types of organisational change

There are several types of changes that an organisation may go through, but there are three general types that cover almost all of those.

  • Planned, developmental and adaptive changes are those you make to improve current organisational processes including restructures, systems changes, or building relocation.
  • Transitional change occurs when you replace existing with new processes. Transitional change is generally more challenging to implement and can increase the levels of stakeholder discomfort.
  • Transformational changes are those an organisation makes to completely reshape strategy and processes. Often this impacts work culture and can become focussed on cultural change.

These types of changes can be a response to environmental and market changes and can unearth a broad range of emotional responses in stakeholders. It needs to be very well managed. Especially in transformational and complex changes or multiple change concurrent programs there can be a mixture of change types in occurrence.

Managing Resistance To Change

 With the right guidelines, company executives can manage a smooth transition to change.

And while it is true that most people fear and resent change, others are open to the idea. One needs to establish a game plan to ensure that all employees are on board with the changes that a company undergoes before the changes occur.

How Employees Resist Change

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the hands of the entire world and not just certain companies to adapt, some employees may fail to see the gravity of the impact on the organisation that provides their livelihood. Where employees have not successfully been educated or engaged, resistance is often much higher. 

Some ways for employees to demonstrate resistance is by quitting, absenteeism or taking time off work unannounced. They could ignore the direction relating to the changes, and in more extreme cases, they may go on strike. It is a natural human instinct to dig our heels in when the accepted way of doing things is being challenged.

What can leaders do?

Tips to manage employee resistance to organisational changes

There is no hard and fast rule to encompass change in a nuanced way. The following humanising tips may be useful if you are facing employees opposing organisational change

Be empathetic

Understand where employees are coming from. While several people may irrationally fear change, other people may have genuine problems with the changes.

Be willing to make a compromise

While meeting midway may be impossible, allow the employees flexibility to adjust to the change.

Establish clear measures for change

Make sure that all employees impacted by significant change have clear outcomes defined for their role. A common approach is to use cascading KPI’s or KRA’s from senior management right through to the ‘field’.

Explain what is in it for them

Commonly known as Whats-In-It-For-Me (WIIFM), it is also good to recognise where change is difficult. People can see through “marketing” if all you are trying to do is sell the positives. Make sure you communicate in a non-confrontational manner. This will allow employees to understand their role in the context of change.

Find solutions to their problems

This will allow you to personally address concerns that may exist within the employee community and make sure that an agreement is reached.

Be willing to admit mistakes

Understand that company executives need to take into account human dynamics, inconveniences, and problems when introducing large-scale changes. Being appropriately vulnerable as a leader conveys authenticity.

Be real, be human

Overcoming resistance to change in business also includes working on your own self development as a leader.

Reinforce the change

More than your words, your actions and investment change specific reinforcement strategies will foster a healthy environment for change to occur.

Who We Are? 

Change can be overwhelming – especially given today’s pandemic induced climate.

Let the team at Unitive help you lead the way to a smoother transition or sustainable transformation.


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