3.5 Types of People in
Managing Resistance to Change
Managing resistance to change is probably where the initiators of change should spend the more time on. It’s relatively easy to come up with "strategic initiatives" compared to dealing with people. The key to effectively managing resistance is to understand what people think about the change. There is usually a strong resistance to change because people usually fear the unknown. However, if you are able to understand the core issues of managing resistance to change and take proper steps to reduce and eliminate that fear, any organization will have a greater chance of making the transition work.
So, here are the four biggest reasons why most of us resist change.
- Don’t trust the initiators (of change)
- Don’t understand the change
- Don’t like the change
- Don’t want to change at all.
Let’s go over the four types for managing resistance to change in detail.
1) DON’T TRUST THE INITIATORS OF CHANGE
This is the most problematic aspect of managing resistance to change because it takes the longest and hardest to fix. If the followers (usually employees) have little trust in the people imposing the change,
2) DON’T UNDERSTAND THE CHANGE
- First, the initiator has to find out why the target members of change don’t trust them. It could be simple as a personality fix (moody e.g.), or something deeper that requires a character fix (dishonest, hypocritical e.g.), which will require even more time. This can be done by formal surveys or sometimes informal chats. Some people will be more comfortable with a direct approach, others will want to remain anonymous.
- Once the obstacles have been identified, it’s best to communicate them as early as possible. This will require some (or a LOT of) courage. It’s not easy to sincerely admit personal mistakes to a roomful of people.
- This may be cliché, but always be honest. There have been a number of times from my experience where managers have not been honest, all it takes is one moment of dishonesty and the reputation is set.
- Building trust does not happen overnight, especially if there's an existing atmosphere of distrust. Again, this is the most difficult aspect of managing change.
As talked about in the ADKAR or the 7 Steps of change, be sure to address the Desire to change or the Urgency to change as one of the first thing to do. Keep asking the right questions. Always give the “why” before you get into “how” the change will take place, this will appeal to people's logic. Also, be sure to address the emotional, right-brained aspect of the changes. Don’t just display the data (the left brain) and be done with it, take the time to "paint a picture" of the benefits of change. Remember, going s-l-o-w with people will mean faster results, pretty much like foreplay
. :) 3) DON’T LIKE THE CHANGE
Even if the receivers of change trust the initiators and the receivers are clear on what needs to be changed, you may still run into a wall where the receivers of change may dislike the transition. It could be a loss of a job, position, prestige. Find out what exactly they don't like about the change and communicate if their fears are valid.
If their fears are not valid, then assure them logically and emotionally, that their status within the organization is secure. On the other hand, if their fears are valid, then come up with strategies to reduce the chances of their "potentially negative" results from happening. It may require some trust and creativity on both sides to come up with a solid win-win solution. If you don't tell them the possibilities of negative consequences, then you will lose the trust of the people who make it through the change. Besides, you have little to lose, they already feel threatened by the change so why not just let it out in the open?
When managing resistance to change, at times the negative results cannot be prevented. After all, since the invention of computers and process automation, it has removed a very large number of jobs, (but it has created far more opportunities for those who have the skills to use computers). Skills and jobs do become obsolete, especially if you are one of target members. The sooner you realize that your skills and/or job are going away the better off you will be to make adjustments, instead of fighting an uphill battle. In the big companies I worked for that are not "technology oriented", I see there are so many jobs that could be eliminated just by implementing the right technology and processes. Shuffling large piles of paper is becoming a thing of a past, so get used to it. The world is becoming more competitive.
4) DON’T WANT TO CHANGE AT ALL
This group of people will resist no matter what you try to do. Assuming the initiator did everything possible to build sincere trust, spoke with clarity, gave the followers of change every opportunity to be a part of the process and still did not cooperate, there’s a good chance they lack maturity. They will be a drain in an company’s attempt to transition to be more competitive. This will be a tough call, so be sure to make deposits, listen sincerely, present the facts, let them be a part of the change process. If they still resist, you may have to seriously consider letting them go.
So, if you're the initiator of change and took the time to gather the information above, (using a mix of informal chats and surveys) you may find there is a mix of the first 3 types. So, armed with that knowledge you have a much clearer roadmap to managing resistance to change within your organization. Be sure to communicate and resolve each issue one by one with the appropriate people. In general, it's more of an emotional deposit if the initiator takes time to meet personally. There doesn't need to be complicated models when dealing with people, just keep it simple.
Also keep in mind, the best laid plans don't always succeed, but maintain awareness for the 'yellow alerts' that can become bigger problems later. So, go ahead and give it a shot, and deal with each resistance types, one by one.
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