Managing Employee Resistance

A teacher and adult students engaging in facilitated learning. Above them there are different elements/icons related to education, learning and teaching. Those elements are: light bulbs, gears and wheels, question mark, magnifying glass, speech bubbles

Resistance to change is a natural reaction when employees are asked to change. Change is uncomfortable and requires new ways of thinking and doing. People have trouble developing a vision of what life will look like on the other side of change. Therefore, they tend to cling to the known rather than embrace the unknown.

Change produces anxiety and uncertainty. The range of reactions when change is introduced is immense and unpredictable. No person is left unaffected by most changes. As a result, resistance to change often occurs when change is introduced. As a manager, through your thinking, your words and your actions, you can impact the degree to which resistance to change occurs. Below are some recommended actions to help reduce resistance to change.

  • Own the changes. No matter where the change originated or how you feel about the change, you must own the change yourself. It’s your responsibility to implement the change. You can only do that effectively, if you step back, take a deep breath, and plan how you will implement the change with the people you influence.
  • Encourage a supportive work environment. If you are considered to be honest, and your employees trust you and feel loyal to you, employees are much more likely to get onboard for the change quickly. The efforts you have expended in building this type of relationship will serve you well during a change.
  • Explain what’s changing. With any change effort, employees jobs will change in ways leaders may not anticipate. Encourage employees to engage in conversation about the change so they are clear about the benefits the change brings to them as individuals and the positive impact on their jobs.
  • Explain why the change. It’s not just enough to explain what’s changing. Help employees who aren’t involved in planning the change understand why the change is happening. Provide them with the rationale for the change.
  • Listen deeply and empathetically to the employees. You can expect employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee’s response to even the most simple change. You can’t know or experience the impact from an individual’s point of view. Genuinely listening to employees and their perspective in a non-judgmental way will reduce resistance to change.
  • Elicit ideas. To build participant and engagement in change initiatives, simply ask employees for their ideas on how to make the change work. By using their good ideas, you create enthusiasm, sense of ownership and commitment to the change. Empower employees to make the change work.