resistance to change

Dealing with Resistance to Change

Many workplaces will have at least one person who has a resistance to change. They may be great at what they do, but they are not willing to make any changes to adapt to new ways of doing things or new people in the team. Even if they are effective workers, their attitude to change can cause problems in the workplace. It can make processes less efficient; it can frustrate co-workers and more importantly, it can be catching so that others may start to show similar symptoms.

In the current environment, change is likely to be constant, and someone who cannot or will not adapt to change will create difficulties. So what can you do?


Understand what they do bring to the workplace

While these employees might be inflexible and frustrating, it is important to focus on the skills that they do bring to the workplace and understand why you should value them. Often the people who struggle with change are those that need order and perfectionism and may be great at tasks involving attention to detail, or compliance type roles.

Be proactive in your approach

If you know you are likely to encounter resistance, then be proactive about how you approach it. Don’t wait for the resistance to come, but consider different approaches. Resistance to change can come from fear and pushing too hard may just produce even bigger pushback from them. The key is to try to understand if the resistance is based on fear, and if so where that comes from. Try to understand their position and why they feel change is not needed.

Listen to them

This is your opportunity to really understand what their position is and what they think might happen if change is made. It may be that they have valid reasons and you may learn things you’ve not already considered. People may resist to protect something. This could be their current position – so they may feel their role is under threat with the proposed change, their status in the team. It may be their workload; maybe they are concerned the change will give them too much responsibility, or too little. Sometimes it may only take the acknowledgement of the fear or concern to help people overcome it.

Small steps

Once you have uncovered possible reasons for the inflexibility, you may need to reconsider how to go about the change you are trying to achieve. Sometimes this can mean taking small steps, if possible so that the change feels more manageable. This means that at each stage people have a chance to try things out and give feedback on what works before moving on to the next stage of change.

How to deliver the change message

People are wary of what may seem like change for change’s sake. Be clear why change is needed, and the positive impact it should have. If there may be a short-term pain to achieve a long-term gain, be honest about this so that people know what to expect. Try to demonstrate how this change might improve their working lives.

Know when to back off!

There may be times when staff are still not welcoming change, despite your best efforts. If this is the case, you need to consider whether this is a battle you can step away from. If you value your stubborn staff for what they do bring to the organisation, it may be that you need to weigh up that value against the perceived value of the change. For your business to move forward, it may be more important to continue working as a team, than to bring in that particular change.

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