Resistance - The Constant Companion to Change


By: Dale Mask

There is always resistance to change. This is probably not news to most managers. Managers are continually asking people to change. Whether it’s a new process, new policies, or asking a person to improve performance, as manager your job is about asking people to change. What is news to most managers is that there are four basic ways in which people resist change. The good news is there are basic approaches to deal each of these ways.

The first method of resisting change is withdrawal

The individual appears to lose interest. They take the “I don’t care” or “Whatever” approach. Too often, managers let this person continue this approach for too long. They allow the person to continue because the behavior is not openly destructive or confrontational. The result is that the person lags behind to slow the change process and often fuels the resistance of others. With this individual it is important to engage them. Go to them one-on-one and draw them out. Allow them to question the change. Dispel any misconceptions. Answer their concerns with openness and honesty.

A second method of resisting change is loss of identity

This is a challenging area for both manager and employee because it is often the result of job loss. The individual feels lost, sometimes betrayed, and often feels as if their skills are of no value. Too often, this person spins their wheels trying to find out the “why” of this happening rather than making plans to move forward. They seek comfort by being consoled by others. The manager can best help this individual by getting them to talk about the possibilities of the future. To help them see the value of their skills in a new system, focus their efforts on how they can best transfer their skills.

The third method of resisting change is a feeling of disorientation

The individual’s concern is about how they will fit into the new system. Where is this taking them? What is going to be expected of them now? Too often, they become fixated on the new process, how it is different and why it might not work for them. To their detriment, they are not focusing on what they need to do now and the specific actions they need to be taking. The manager can help this individual best by providing direction. Talk to them in terms of the vision and goals, and what can be done right now to move in that direction. Give them specific tasks. Follow up.  Avoid letting them stew about the process; get them to start taking action.

The fourth method of resisting change is negativity

This person plays the role of the victim. “Woe is me.” They dump the negativity on anyone who will listen. They love a pity party, are often angry, and not afraid to show it. The manager will need to let this person vent. As psychologists point out, the logical left brain cannot work while the emotional right brain is at work. Let them know it’s alright to express their feelings as long as it is done appropriately. Meet with them, get them to open up, listen and allow them to express their feelings. The manager should be careful to help them discuss the issue rationally and direct the focus of the discussion to the reality of the situation. The manager may not feel much was accomplished at the end of the meeting. However, they may find the employee simply needed to have an opportunity to vent and is actually now accepting the reality of change.

As a change agent, managers should recognize that people may slip back and forth between these four methods as they work through the change process. The manager simply alters the approach accordingly.

Managers should keep in mind these four methods to resist change are simply natural human reactions. When these behaviors emerge, managers should not take it personally or look negatively at the person displaying the behavior. These are simply coping methods. Of course, if people do not accept the inevitable and do not display acceptable behavior relative to the change, disciplinary action may need to be taken. Until then, the manager can use these proven solutions to help their employees through the process of change.

By: Dale Mask

© 2015 Alliance Training and Consulting, Inc.



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