Solid Advice on 3 Ways to Handle Change Resisters

Handle Change Resisters The outline of a deadman on the pavement entitled "Resisted Change"

How to Best Handle Change Resisters
This graphic is a rather grim illustration of why how you handle change resisters matters. Fortunately change management consulting experts have a far less drastic and far more effective change management process to recommend for those holdouts on your team who continue to resist organizational change.

Of Course Change is Hard
Let’s start by acknowledging that organizational change is never easy for change leaders or followers. Far too many of us are apt to prefer the status quo because it’s known, comfortable, and predictable. But if you are going to thrive, and often just survive in most companies today, you need to be flexible and adapt well to change.

The Organizational Change Basics
Of course, there are ways to effect change that sticks. You need to be able to articulate the rationale behind the change in a convincing way; you need to get buy-in from the top on down; you need to paint the picture of how the change will be enacted and how it will affect each employee; you have to be patient as employees make tentative moves in the right direction; and you have to monitor and coach the desired behaviors all along the way.

Three Solid Ways to Handle Change Resisters
Assuming you have done the organizational change basics “right,” there will still be those who resist change. With over twenty years in the change management consulting field, we can offer solid advice on how to handle the change resisters and naysayers.

1.  Don’t Take It Personally
Recognize that people who fight change are not necessarily trying to work against you personally; they just aren’t yet won over by the need for change and don’t yet see what’s in it for them compared to the status quo.  It is natural and expected for others to have a different perspective.  Remember it is about them, not you.

2.  Seek First to Understand
Openly listen to reasons for change resistance and deal with them one-by-one in an objective and compassionate way. Avoid getting angry and frustrated. That will only give change resisters an excuse for digging in their heels deeper.

To better handle change resisters make sure that they feel heard and taken seriously.  Learn why they feel that the desired changes may not be in the best interests of the company, the team, or them individually.  Have empathy for their situation.  Change resisters may be fearful that there will be no place for them in the “new” order or that they will lose influence.

Be empathetic. Provide straightforward and honest answers.  And make sure that you truly understand their concerns and doubts. 

3.  Look Forward
Work together to find a way your change resister can get realigned and be a part of the company’s future. This should be a cooperative effort with both offering suggestions and agreeing upon a timeline of progress toward practicing the new behaviors that are required.  This can be one of those difficult conversations that many leaders and managers avoid. But it is necessary.

Most change resisters will adjust, albeit more slowly than the rest. But if they are not cooperative, you need to help them move on. They cannot continue to be on the team; their negative pull will drag the whole team down.

The Bottom Line
Your job as a change leader is to get people to follow the new method of doing things in a way that makes sense. You need each and every team member to be part of the solution – not the problem.  Work with change resisters to help them understand and appreciate why the changes are necessary and what you expect from them.

To learn more about how to handle change resisters, download How to Successfully Recognize and Reward Organizational Change

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