Most of us have heard the age old saying, “change is as good as a holiday,” and whilst this might be true for our personal lives, where change can lead to feelings of excitement, the same can not be said for changes that we experience in the workplace. Quite often workplace changes, regardless of how small, can send employees into a spin, and create feelings of resistance.
We take a look at resistance to change in the workplace. We consider what resistance is, what happens when employees resist change in the workplace, as well as considering strategies that could be adopted by employers to make change within the workplace not so overwhelming, reducing the resistance from their broader workforce.
Resistance to change what is and why?
Resistance to change is described as being the act of opposing, or struggling with the modifications, transformations or development that alters the status quo, or norm, within the workplace. Resistance to change is characterised by an unwillingness to accept the change and adapt to an altered set of circumstances, with actions being covert or overt and can be individualised or also taking an organised form.
In terms of workplace change, the reality is that most, if not all businesses will at some stage introduce changes, as the business grows or takes a different shape. This is completely natural and part of business progression, however for employees these changes can cause feelings of distrust and insecurity, which can lead to the adverse behaviour that is typical of those resisting change.
What does employee resistance to change look like?
For employers who are looking to determine whether their employees are resisting workplace change, it is important to keep an eye out for the following behaviours;
- Criticism and increased negativity when completing everyday tasks
- Snide comments and remarks that are baseless
- Narcissism to management, other employees and to customers and other key stakeholders
- Missed meetings and reduced participation
- Failed commitments and poor attendance
- Argumentative behaviours
This list above includes behaviours that include inaction, and whilst poor outward behaviours such as narcissism and snide remarks and comments are typical of those who are unhappy and resisting the changes to their roles and workplace environments, inaction, and lack of or reduced levels of participation can be just as detrimental to businesses, and employers should be aware of this behaviour as well.
Strategies to overcome resistance Strategies to stamp out or reduce resistance to change, start before the changes are implemented, and employers should certainly not wait for poor behaviour to commence before taking steps to reduce resistance. In fact, some of the most effective strategies to reduce resistance to change involve forethought and careful planning by employers.
Some of the most practical and effective strategies for reducing and eliminating resistance to change in the workplace include;
- Actively listening
By actively listening to your employees, as an employer you can create a workplace culture that is based on trust, this trust will be essential in terms of employees accepting proposed changes, as they feel, seen, heard, and valued within the business, which will make them more receptive to change.
- Consulting employees in the change process
Employees are more receptive to change when they feel part of the process, as opposed to having change just dumped on them, with the expectation that they should accept it and move on. An environment that fosters collaboration and is inclusive will be a positive step to employees accepting change easily.
- Providing consistent and transparent communication
Not communicating with your employees in a consistent, reliable manner can cause huge issues for businesses. Particularly where some employees feel left in the dark, while their colleagues appear to be well informed, can damage culture and create levels of distrust. Communicating with all employees and fostering inclusion are vital. Putting in place a communication platform that is open to all will ensure all of your employees remain on the same level and feel included.
- Introducing changes in an open and receptive environment that encourages open discussion and provides feedback opportunities
Change is far more likely to be well-received by employees where they feel that they can open and honestly discuss their feelings related to the change and feel heard. It is also important to introduce changes in a positive manner, and not as a quick fix to an issue, which can create resentment.
- Focus on changes that are needed and changes that will benefit your employees
Employees are far more likely to accept changes to process in the workplace when they can see the benefit in the change. Making sure your proposed changes will aid your employees as opposed to creating more work for less benefit will ensure your employees are more likely to be happy and receptive to the changes.
- Implement change in several stages and not all at once
Slow and steady certainly wins the race when it comes to implementing changes in the workplace. Rather than making a hundred changes at once, introduce changes is a planned, systematic way, so your employees do not feel overwhelmed, will certainly assist them to accept change.
- Own the changes
Just as resistance to change is a natural reaction, change is inevitable in the workplace, as the business grows and diversifies. It is therefore important that employers own the changes. Do not apologise for making your business better and making necessary alterations to ensure continued productivity and profitability in the future. The key is implementing the change effectively.
The most important thing to remember as an employer when implementing changes to the workplace is that change can be stressful for employees and create feelings of uncertainly, the key to reducing this is to be constructive, inclusive, and effective when introducing change, using strategies, such as those above will certainly assist in this process. However, for those that may need some extra assistance and reassurance, the team at DreamStone HR have over 45 years of dedicated industry experience, developing new policies and procedures and effectively introducing them into businesses, dealing with any resistance to changes that may follow.
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