If you are going through an organizational change, no matter how big or how small, whether it is being perceived as negative or positive, resistance is unavoidable. It may be out in the open, or lurking in a dark corner in the break room. But trust us... it’s there.
Resistance is a function of the amount of disruption a change creates for an individual. It’s a way for people to protect themselves against changes in their job tasks, work behaviors, performance measures, power and/or status. If you are a Change Agent, you can anticipate that the more someone believes their current habits and patterns will be impacted, the greater the degree of resistance you will face.
While it may be tempting to deal with the frustrations of resistance to change by punishing the offenders, this tactic is doomed to fail. It's totally counter-productive and will only serve to strengthen the resistance. Below we’ve listed a few other behaviors that are sure to only serve to worsen the situation:
- Attempting to beat the Target into submission with logical arguments
- Dealing with the person, not the issue
- Ignoring the Target’s values, emotions, and behaviors
- Dragging out the “hammer” (to beat the Target into submission)
- Assuming what is logical to you is logical to the Target
- Arguing with the Target while s/he states their perceptions
- Giving up
The truth of the matter is you will never combat, solve or overcome resistance to change. Sure it's frustrating, especially when you think your change will make things better for the people who are affected by the change. But, in our 30+ years of experience in change management training and change management consulting, we know it is much more useful to try to manage resistance rather than trying to squash it.
How to Manage Resistance
So, what can you do in order to manage this unavoidable resistance to change? Below are 9 effective tactics and strategies from the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM); a structured, practical change management process for the human side of organizational change that Reinforcing Sponsors and Change Agents can use to manage resistance while it is occurring.
- Create personal rapport - Talk directly with the Targets of the change by asking questions to better understand their personal Frame of Reference.
- Ask open-ended questions - It's the best way for Change Agents to really understand where the resistance is coming from.
- Occupy less than 25% of the air time - Managing resistance is more about listening than it is about talking. Limit your own speaking time to no more than 25% of the conversation.You will learn much more if you spend the bulk of the time in listening rather than in talking mode.
- Establish and communicate the expectations - People want to know what is expected of them, and how they will be evaluated.
- Realize you are dealing with resistance - After two “good faith” attempts to explain the change, make sure you realize where the resistance is coming from and acknowledge it.
- Explain the change from the Target’s Frame of Reference - What is a small change in the eyes of one person may be very big from another’s perspective. Make sure you are communicating from each Target’s Frame of Reference, and that you answer the two “me” questions: What’s in it for me, and what does it mean to me?
- After the “why’s” are agreed on, focus on “what we can do to work it out” - After both parties have a mutual understanding of each other's Frame of Reference, and the "why's" of the change are clearly established, focus on "what" we can do to work it out.
- Identify non-supporters and involve them in key roles - Recognize your Target has a lot of energy invested in their resistance. If you can re-direct this energy to helping to work it out,you will be using one of the most effective resistance-management techniques-- involvement.
- Create "win-win" situations - When possible, make it easy for the Target to back down from his current position without losing face.
Remember, you will never combat or overcome resistance to change. Approaches such as discounting resistance, denying it exists, or trying to beat it down, ironically only serve to worsen the situation. Instead, take the time to surface resistance, understand it and then manage it. So now we ask you, what’s being done in your organization to manage resistance to change? Is it effective?