Why Employees Change Their Mind

Why Employees Change Their Mind
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Change Is Here to Stay
Despite how difficult it can be to effect change in the workplace and have employees change their mind, we must recognize that few businesses can survive without being able to adapt.  Whether it’s from minor changes like reorganizing your team to more major changes like a merger or acquisition, it is natural for employees to resist the new way.  Most employees find a change to the status quo uncomfortable or downright threatening.

That is why there is so much change management training and so many have addressed ways to ease and effect organizational change.  But it’s helpful to look not only at the macrocosm, but at the microcosm.  What happens in the individual employee mind when we face a required change in mindset?

The Research
Surprisingly, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have learned that beyond simply changing one’s mind, individuals can be persuaded to accept a completely opposite opinion to what they had once believed.  According to research, here are some of the major psychological factors that influence the way we think about things and how employees change their mind:

  • Confirmation Bias
    We are more likely to filter through information for data that confirms what we already believe. So, if you think that product A is better than product B, you are going to cling to ideas that support A’s superiority.
  • Ability to Rationalize
    If we are stuck with a situation we don’t agree with, we are likely to rationalize our way toward accepting it despite our initial opposition. Researcher Kristin Laurin from the University of British Columbia calls this phenomenon a kind of “psychological immune system.”  She cites the example of when plastic bottles were banned in San Francisco. At first there were many against the ruling. But almost immediately, their opinions changed.People’s mindset changed because they realized that they would simply have to adjust to the practicality of the ban, and it was easier to do so than fight it – the situation was not so bad after all.

What stands out is that, regardless of the status quo, we can change both our thinking and our behavior.  We simply get used to a new situation and, in doing so, can even change our memory and opinion of what happened.  For the most part, humans are preconditioned to get comfortable in situations that we once viewed as negative.

The Bottom Line
The implications of the research on why we change our minds have application in the workplace.  Leaders who must introduce change that is initially resisted can find that, once instituted, most employees will adjust to the change and even welcome it.  The trick is to shorten the time frame and angst as much as possible.

To learn more about how to create better and faster change, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

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