How To Combat the 7 Reasons Employees Fight Change

5 business people witness the melting of the wicked witch to illustrate the cartoon of the boss' threat of what happens when change is resisted

Change is a constant in our lives and yet there are few who, if comfortable with their status quo, welcome change wholeheartedly. You would think that we would get used to shifting and adapting to life’s fluctuations. But, as we at LSA observe regularly in our client organizations, change (even when it makes complete sense) is almost always resisted in one way or another. Our challenge as leaders is to minimize the disruption of change so the change initiatives we have decided are necessary for success are accepted and adopted as smoothly as possible.

We believe that the better prepared you are for the objections to change, the better able you are to plan an effective strategy to overcome resistance and welcome employees aboard the bandwagon for change success. Here are seven of the most common reasons employees oppose change:

  1. Fear of the unknown. Many employees will only accept change as positive if the current situation is completely untenable and markedly worse than the prospect of trying something new, different or unknown.
  2. Fear of making the change transition successfully. What will they be asked to do differently? Will they be able to adapt favorably to the new boss, the new responsibilities, the new strategic direction, the new organizational structure or the new skills required?
  3. Unclear benefits, both personally and for the organization. If the drivers for change at the company level are not spelled out in a compelling way or if the benefits to the individual are not persuasive, you can bet that change will be resisted from the beginning.
  4. Lack of confidence that the change will work. If employees doubt that the leadership is fully committed to the change or capable of successful change, there will be resistance. The plan for change must be equal to the challenge of what you are trying to accomplish.
  5. Unwillingness to give up the “tried and true.” The learning curve required to change behaviors can be steep and painful. Many people prefer the “old” comfortable way and will be reluctant to make the effort to try the “new.” Old habits are hard to break and new habits are difficult to sustain.
  6. Disenchantment with too much change. The status quo is often unacceptable, but continuous change can be overwhelming. When there is too much change, you are likely to have more “prisoners” of change than true and devoted converts to the “new way.”
  7. Feeling sidelined and uninformed. Employees who were not involved in the discussions prior to change are apt to feel neglected and as if they have no voice in the organization’s future.

Change management consulting experts know that the best way to combat all of these common objections is inclusion, information and involvement.

  • Inclusion. Invite employees in the strategy and planning stages of change so that they can understand the rationale for change, contribute their perspectives, and feel a sense of ownership. This will increase their commitment to the plan and their motivation to support implementation.
  • Information. Maintain a stream of regular and two-way communications so employees can follow the progress of the initiative, begin to see the positive results and provide feedback. Welcome questions and suggestions for improvement. You will be able to more effectively manage objections and resistance if you are in the middle of the discussion and not kept in the dark when employees are resistant, insecure or apathetic.
  • Involvement. Collaboration is critical to change management success. Make sure everyone knows exactly what their role is in the plan and where others fit as well. Success will depend upon teams working together toward the goal in a cooperative and supportive way.
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