Change agents have the tendency to attribute resistance to the employees being slackers, stuck in the past or unwilling to embrace the potential of the future. O’Toole even described 33 different causes of resistance, such as inertia, self-interest, ego, short term thinking etc. It is very easy to attribute resistance to personal factors.
However, when digging a bit deeper, there are plenty of very logic (psycho-logic) causes of people’s resistance, not due to personal factors, but causes in the behavior of the initiators of change. Hence this resistance is avoidable and can make room for a positive approach to change.
If I’m experiencing a change, I’ll resist change…
1. When you give me no way of influencing
Lack of self-determination causes huge amounts of stress. Being left to the grace of others makes people anxious and sometimes lethargic. When this happens, it will be projected on your change.
Avoid this as a change leader by providing people with the means to get a sense of control on their own faith. Or, at least, be transparent in the process of what is happening and how decisions are made.
2. When you leave me in the dark
It’s not always possible too clarify everything, nor is there certainty on what will happen. That is why managers often discuss in a very closed group of people and then communicate too late: when all details have been clarified and decided.
Fail to explain what the content of the change will be and people will fill it in themselves. Very often the way they’ll color it trough a dark, negative lens. This is especially the case, when there is low trust or a weak relationship
Avoid this by communicating early and clearly. If there is nothing to communicate, communicate when there will be something and keep that timing.
3. When you surprise me
If the sun has been shining, the storm seems to hit harder. Keeping up appearances and continuing to deny rumors only shields people from an inevitable reality. And when the situation does change and becomes apparent the blow will only be harder.
Worse, in the process people loose the trust in the change agent that has refrained from telling the whole truth.
Avoid this by giving an honest, realistic picture of the situation, and coming up with an attractive positive vision for the future as soon as you can.
4. When you make me look or feel stupid
Very few things are more motivating than being good at something & getting the recognition of that ability.
It also works the other way around: being bad at something makes that behavior go away very fast (even when motivation is high).
Imagine falling from being an expert to a struggling employee, mediocre at best. This is what happens with a lot of organizational changes: peoples job and the way it has to be performed changes drastically, so people feel they have to start over.
Avoid this by making sure competences of people are cherished and by overinvesting in learning at the right time in the change process.
5. When you change everything at once
Too many changes can be distracting or confusing. It’s just unrealistic that everything is bad and needs to be different.
Avoid this by communicating and demonstrating clearly where the continuity is.
6. Because it’s bad for me, you make me loose
Change initiatives sometimes do have a bad effect: people loose freedom, loose status, even their job. In those cases, It is very realistic to oppose to the change.
By Jürgen Tanghe