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Changes of all types bring about resistance for many of us. It is especially impactful when new ownership or leadership takes over a business, division, or department. Long-time employees may often resist these changes due to fear, uncertainty, and a sense of loyalty to the previous way of doing things. However, overcoming resistance is crucial for the successful transition and growth of the company. As such, it often is accompanied by new procedures and systems that are quite different from what those in an organization are used to doing. Any comfort level with the ‘old’ way is often turned upside down. Thus, employees are forced and required to learn new approaches and methods to accomplish things that had been second nature to them previously. As this resistance is anything but productive, it is worth examining the things that cause it and what can be done to minimize it.
What are the things that contribute to this organizational resistance to change?
Resistance to change is the reluctance of people to adapt to change. Employees can be overt or covert about their unwillingness to adapt to organizational changes. This opposition can range from expressing their resistance publicly, to unknowingly resisting change through language, or general actions.
Resistance occurs when employees resist change based on their unique perceptions, personalities, and needs. Things like job security, habits, and economic factors have a massive influence on individual resistance. Here are some of the key issues that awaken the tendency to resist:
- Mistrust and lack of confidence
When employees don’t trust or feel confident in the person making the change, their resistance to it can be a huge barrier. Some consider that lack of confidence in change-makers is one of the most overlooked causes of internal change resistance in organizations. And although people may not be resisting the change itself, but rather the person or entity making such changes.
- Emotional responses
Changing the status quo is complex and people tend to react emotionally to disruptions to their routine. This is a natural and inevitable response. Brushing it off will only lead to stronger resistance. Change can lead to feelings of loss and grief. As such those leading the change must accept and manage these emotions as people move towards acceptance.
- Lack of training or help resources
This brings about when employees feel unprepared to adapt and adopt new processes. This feeds the inclination to resist simply because one doesn’t know how to do something now required. Rather than ask, one might also just resist.
- Fear of failure
People won’t support a change if they’re not confident in their abilities to adapt to it. When people feel threatened by their shortcomings (real or imagined), they protect themselves from failure by resisting the change.
- Poor change communication
The key to excellent change management communicationis to create an active conversation. When you talk at people as opposed to with people, you’re bound to get pushback and resistance to change.
- Unrealistic timelines Of course it is desirable to achieve the desired change as soon as possible. And too often that leads those overseeing the change to set timelines that are not always realistic. This simply adds to the frustration of all and furthers resistance.
- Existing organizational culture and norms
Resistance to change often occurs when existing company culture and norms are deeply rooted in an organization, which hinders the acceptance of new ways of doing things, such as new processes, leadership, team structure, or technology.
How To Effectively Deal with Experienced Resistance and Minimize Its’ Impact
There are some key steps that can be taken that will significantly minimize resistance that often accompanies organizational change of leadership and management. Though these may seem like they add more work and time to the process, the payoff is clearly in the transition that is desired and desirable. Some key ones are as follows:
- Provide the reasons for the need for the changes being made
Some will be simpler than what is familiar. Others will seem more complex and time-consuming. Regardless, many times these are required to fit into already established ways to fit into methods already used for accounting purposes. Others are to align with processes being used by other divisions or departments already a part of the new owner’s company. Providing logical reasoning can do a lot to increase cooperation.
- Communicate openly and frequently
Be willing to hear and respond to questions of those expected to employ any new methods brought about by this change of leadership. This goes a long way to helping employees know that their input is needed and valued. In fact, there will be times that such input will actually lead to adjusting a required method.
- Involve employees in the change process
This can significantly reduce resistance. When employees feel that their voices are heard and their ideas are valued, they are more likely to embrace the change. Encourage employees to participate in brainstorming sessions, problem-solving, and decision-making related to the change. This collaborative approach empowers employees and makes them stakeholders in the change process.
- Identify champions within the employee base who are on board with the changes and involve them in this process.
These individuals can be influential employees who support the change and help others understand its importance. Change champions can serve as role models and advocates for the change, and their enthusiasm can be contagious. They can also provide peer support and guidance to their colleagues.
- Creating a supportive environment
An organizational culture that encourages innovation, learning, and adaptability is more likely to reduce resistance to change. Encourage a supportive and open environment where employees feel safe expressing their concerns and ideas. Ensure that leaders and managers are approachable and available to address questions and concerns.
- Conflict resolution Address any conflicts that may arise due to the change promptly and fairly. Provide conflict resolution mechanisms and channels for employees to express their concerns and seek resolution. Handling conflicts professionally and transparently can prevent them from escalating and causing more significant resistance.
- Measure success
Define clear metrics for success and regularly measure progress. Communicate the positive outcomes achieved because of the change, such as increased efficiency, cost savings, or improved customer satisfaction. Demonstrating the tangible benefits of the change can motivate employees and reduce resistance.
- Consistency and patience
Change is often a gradual process, and it requires consistency and patience. Avoid making abrupt changes or constantly shifting directions. Give employees time to adapt and be patient with the pace of change.
You can’t avoid change, but you can work through it. Anticipating and planning for resistance is an essential aspect of implementing positive organizational change. When you dig into the reasons behind the resistance to change, you’re better prepared to address it and move past it, regardless of which type of organizational change you undergo within your company. Overcoming workplace resistance to change is a critical challenge for organizations who are undergoing a change in ownership and leadership. Change is often met with skepticism, fear, and pushback from employees who may be comfortable with the status quo. However, successfully managing this resistance is essential for achieving organizational goals and the changes required.