Archive for June, 2013

How to Mitigate Resistance to Change

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Resisting change is part of human nature. Given that change has become the new “normal” in today’s world, helping employees embrace change, or at least not oppose it, has become a critical success factor for organizations. Here are nine things you can do to reduce employees’ resistance to change:

1. Create a common “big picture”

Ensure your organization has a vision or “big picture” that everyone can relate to, AND make sure every employee can articulate the contribution he/she makes. Why? When human beings feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves, they tend to focus on ACHIEVING that picture rather than on resisting it.

2. Appeal to people’s enlightened self-interest

The biggest motivator I know is enlightened self-interest. You address the “self-interest” aspect when you answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) up front, from each employee’s perspective. Since people don’t always know what’s good for them, educating them is critical if you are to be successful in inspiring them to take action.

3. Walk the talk

Don’t expect employees to embrace change if their leaders don’t do it themselves

4. Ask, “What’s your evidence?’’

When employees make statements that represent speculation or opinion, request that they back up their claims. Asking them what evidence leads them to draw their conclusions opens the door for a discussion of the issue.

5. Develop excellent framing skills

“Framing” means to put things in perspective. The most common example is the proverbial glass: is it half empty or half full? Because our frame affects the way we see the world, the way we think, our beliefs, and our actions, leaders can teach employees that they have a choice in terms of how they experience change.

6. Provide supervisory skills training

Providing leaders with the tools they need to be successful in counteracting resistance (and other negative behaviors) is one of the most effective ways to mitigate resistance to change. This is particularly true at the supervisory level, which is where the tone of the work unit is set.

7. Don’t try to square a circle

In this context, this phrase means that the “good old days,” whatever they meant for your employees, are gone, never to return. The world has changed, and so must we. Continuing to do things the old way, especially when they clearly don’t work anymore, is a form of organizational insanity.

8. Incorporate procedural fairness into all decision-making

While leaders often cannot control decision factors or outcomes, they can control the process by which decisions are made. Research shows clearly that if people perceive that the process by which decisions are made is fair – i.e., free of bias, non-discriminatory, transparent, and offers an opportunity for meaningful input by those affected by the decision – then they will accept it even when they don’t like or agree with it.

9. Remove the elephant from the living room

The “elephant in the living room” refers to an issue or topic or problem that everyone knows is present, yet no one will talk about. It causes dysfunction and all sorts of negative behaviors and outcomes, including resistance to change. Escorting the elephant out of the living room, and making sure it doesn’t come back, will help you address the issues behind resistance to change.

What are some of the ways you have found that effectively reduce resistance to change in your organization? Let us know!

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.