Operations director Focus7 International
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The top ten reasons why employees resist change

4th Mar 2015
Operations director Focus7 International
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We all hate change but, as an employer, if you expect resistance to change and then plan for it from the start, it will help to allow you to effectively manage objections, sometimes even before they are raised. Leona Barr-Jones gives us some advice in the face of resistance.

The first step in any change programme however large or small, is to explain to employees why it is important for the change to occur and what the intended benefits will be over the long term. The communication of this needs to be carefully managed and communicated to all affected parties. There should also be some form of consultation period where people can voice their concerns and contribute their thoughts, views and opinions. If you miss out on this stage of the process you are likely to damage the change process before it has even properly begun.

Before you even reach this stage however, you need to start thinking about why people resist change. Below are the top ten reasons people quote when asked why they object to change. If you understand these and plan for them, it
will help to give you the opportunity to plan your change strategy to address these factors upfront.

  • What's the point in changing? If your staff do not understand the drivers for change then you can expect resistance. Especially from those who strongly believe the current way of doing things works well and think 'if it ain't broke don't fix it!'
  • Feel the fear. One of the most common reasons for resistance is fear of the unknown. People will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe and feel that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward.
  • What's in it for me? When the benefits and rewards for making the change are not seen as adequate for the trouble involved.
  • You can't teach old dogs new tricks. This is a fear people will seldom admit, but sometimes, change in an organisation can mean changes in skills, and some people will feel that they won't be able to make the transition.
  • 'But we love the old way.' If you ask people in an organisation to do things in a new way, as rational as that new way may seem to you, you will be setting yourself up against all that hard wiring, all those emotional connections to those who taught your audience the old way - so don't underestimate that.
  • 'We'll never make that work.' When people don't believe that they, or the company, can competently manage the change there is likely to be resistance.
  • 'Ignore it, it's just a fad.' When people believe that the change initiative is a temporary fad they won't engage.
  • 'No one asked me.' If people feel that they are part of the change there is less resistance. People like to know what's going on, especially if their jobs may be affected. Informed employees tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction and when it comes to change management there's no such thing as too much communication.
  • 'Don't change my routine.' When we talk about comfort zones we're really referring to routines. Us humans love routine. They make us feel secure. So there's bound to be resistance whenever we are asked to do things differently.
  • 'It's all so exhausting.' Don't mistake compliance for acceptance. People who are overwhelmed by continuous change resign themselves to it and go along with the flow. You have them in body, but you do not have their hearts. Motivation will be low, so make a plan to win the hearts and minds.

Collaboration is vital in any change management programme, so if possible test change on a pilot group of employees to ensure that more people buy in to the process. Ensure that you keep people informed about the programme and the stage it has reached. Don’t let them feel that they are being kept in the dark as this will invite resistance.

Expecting resistance to change and planning for it from the start of your change management programme will allow you to effectively manage objections and to be proactive not reactive. This will help to ensure that change is a smooth process not a difficult one.

Leona Barr Jones is managing director at Business Change consultancy Barr Jones Associates and spent many years managing change programmes for The Army and The Ministry of Defence. Here she provides some guidance on factors to consider when planning a major change management programme within your organisation. To find out more about Barr Jones Associates please visit www.barrjonesassociates.com 

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