What Can We Do in the Workplace When People Resist Change?

by Gina Scott

It's not uncommon for employees to resist the idea of change. Most people tend to fear the unknown, and this is just as true in the workplace as anywhere else. If staff members are hesitant about upcoming changes in company policies or strategies, there are steps you can take to put them at ease. The more proactive a company is about anticipating the anxiety created by change, the fewer problems it will have.

Be Transparent

If employees perceive that you are trying to be secretive about a change, they are more likely to develop anxiety about it. If you find that workers are resisting change, be as open as possible about why the company is making the change, and what it means to the staff. When employees are kept informed about when and how changes will be made, they'll feel less blindsided by the changes and more prepared to deal with them. Being transparent about changes also reduces the likelihood that unfounded rumors will circulate.

Show Them the Value

If employees can visualize the advantages of making a change, they're less likely to resist it. People develop their own ways of doing things, and it's hard for them to break out of the routine. For example, they might resist efforts to computerize functions that were once done by hand. In situations like these, let employees know that the company is aware that there will be a learning curve, and that it will take time for everyone to get up to speed. After that, show them how their jobs will be made easier by the new procedures, and how the company as a whole will benefit. It helps to be patient and understanding during the changeover process so you don't alienate your staff.

Involve Employees in the Process

Letting employees know that their opinions matter can lessen the resistance to change. If a company has implemented a significant change in procedure, and it's not well received by rank-and-file employees, hold a meeting to discuss the situation. Ask the employees for their input on the problems they are having, and how these problems can be resolved. Workers who are in the trenches will probably have sound ideas on how to make the change go more smoothly. This not only streamlines the process and reduces the staff's resistance to change -- it also lets employees know that their ideas are valued.

Be Proactive About Issues

One way to address employee resistance to change is anticipating when and where problems may come up. If a change is likely to be unpopular, brainstorm where particular issues could arise and address them before they occur. For example, if a company wants to start enforcing the restriction of personal Internet use while at work, anticipate how to overcome objections. Remind employees that they can use their personal laptops or smartphones during breaks for Internet use. If practical, set up online computer stations or cafes around the company for personal use. You might even introduce an extra 15-minute break during the day so employees can use the Internet cafe. Employees will appreciate the extra step you've taken and be more likely to embrace the changes being implemented.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Gina Scott has been writing professionally since 2008. She has worked in real estate since 2004 and has expertise in pop culture and health-related topics. She has also self-published a book on how to overcome chronic health conditions. Scott holds a Master of Arts in higher-education administration from Ball State University.

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