How to Overcome Resistance to Change in the Workplace?

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Change is inevitable, and every organization has to make some changes in its operations in order to stay competitive and relevant in the marketplace. However, many of them are faced with challenges when it comes to implementing these changes, which are mostly tied to the employees. In such cases, management needs to follow some proven strategies for overcoming resistance to change.

Businesses are set up and run with the intention of making profits and maximizing shareholders’ value. Shareholders are the owners of the businesses, and by committing their capital, they expect to get value for their money through maximum returns. And to achieve this, the business often needs to implement some important changes.

The proposed changes could be in the way the business carries out its day to day operations, the organizational hierarchy, the duties, and responsibilities of employees, the introduction of a new product or service, or change in technology. However, the changes do not always come without resistance from various concerned parties. It is therefore important for the management to devise ways of overcoming this resistance to change to meet its set goals.

The primary strategy for overcoming resistance to change in the workplace is by ensuring that most, if not all, of the management team is in support of the proposed change. This is because the managers may, by virtue of their talk or behavior, influence the way their subordinates respond to the change. If, for instance, a manager shows indifference to the proposal, then it is likely that his subordinates may also follow suit. This attitude will, therefore, make implementation difficult.

Another effective strategy for overcoming resistance to change in the workplace is by communicating with the employees and educating them on the need for change. The personnel need to understand the reasons behind the move and the implications it will have on their work. They need to know how the change will affect them. This is because the main reason for resistance tends to be uncertainty or fear of the unknown.

Management also needs to involve employees in the decision-making process. This way they will feel part and parcel of the company and will more likely welcome the change. Management needs to listen to the employees and allow them to give their suggestions on how to best put the plan into action.

Another strategy for overcoming resistance to change in the workplace is ensuring that the proposed changes conform to the established policies and values of the organization. By virtue of the employees working there, it is important to ensure that they will not view the change as fundamentally varied from what they are accustomed to.

Since not all personnel are likely to resist change, management should enter into negotiations with the opposing parties. For example, if the sales and marketing department is resistant because they are uncertain of how the customers will respond to the new product or service, then top management should talk to them and make them see the benefits of the new product or service compared to the previous one.

Another strategy for overcoming resistance to change in the workplace is by management emphasizing more on the positive aspects of the proposed change than on the negative. This will give the employees more confidence, and they would focus more on those benefits.

It is also advisable that management shows the concerned parties how the changes will better impact the organization as a whole, and not necessarily on departmental levels. There needs to be emphasis that one of the primary objectives of the organization is to maximize shareholders’ value. And if this change will bring them a step closer to achieving that objective, then it needs to be implemented!

Another strategy which can be very useful is parallel adoption of change. This involves running the new system concurrently with the old one. It is done to give the employees more time to familiarize themselves with the new changes and get accustomed while still using the old systems.

The parallel adoption method is also ideal because management will be in a good position to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of the systems, products, services or procedures. If the new system proves to be sub-par or less productive, then management may decide to terminate it and continue with the old one.

However, this parallel adoption method should be used where the organization has enough resources (in terms of manpower, money & time). It is also ideal where the change does not need to be immediate.

If time is of the essence, especially in relation to the adoption of new technology methods, following a directive by the government, or from the regulatory authorities, then the best option would be to implement the change irrespective of the resistance.

Management must stand their ground! They are the organization’s decision makers, and it is their responsibility to ensure that statutory rules & obligations are met! Failure to adhere to the guidelines may lead to penalties, sanctions or closing down of the business.

In conclusion, it is very important for management to consider beforehand the implications of the proposed change to the organization’s way of carrying out business. The change should be done in a professional manner to avoid high employee turnover which may affect the organization negatively.