Human beings tend to resist anything they view as stressful, and let’s face it, organizational changes are about as stressful as it can get!
For most of us, familiarity with our surroundings, our relationships and our working environment allows us to reside safely inside our comfort zone. And comfort equals security.
But when our comfort zone is detonated by changes in management or organizational systems, we implode, seeking the shelter of our innate desire to resist, at all costs.
Changes that occur outside of our control force us to adapt to new rules, new systems and new policies which can, at the outset, make us feel uncomfortable and insecure.
However, a responsible and responsive management team can intercede before staff resistance spreads like the plague and threatens the smooth transition of organizational changes.
Effective team leaders acknowledge and understand that it is a basic human instinct to react to change with resistance, even though staff may fully comprehend the reasons why changes in the organization are vital to its existence and growth.
6 Management Strategies to Avert Resistance
- A clear outline – Discomfort and insecurity arises when staff are not made aware of the policies, principles, guidelines and structure of intended changes. Every employee needs to know how his/her position will be affected and what his/her role requires.
- Commitment –Implementation of organizational changes will not occur smoothly if everyone – from the CEO to the office clerk – is not committed to the project and its successful outcome.
- Advocacy – Each member of an organization who may be affected by the impending changes must be given the opportunity to express his/her opinion.
- Responsibility – It is the role of the team leader to ensure that each employee who is responsible for a component of the change strategy is held accountable for his/her actions in implementing the changes required.
- Acknowledgement – Evaluation and acknowledgement of the success of the change strategy at regular intervals ensures its smooth implementation.
- Flexibility – Management needs to adopt a flexible approach to each stage of development of a change strategy so that unforeseen contingencies can be implemented, if and where necessary.
It only takes one irresolute employee to destabilize an entire workforce, so periods of internal change within an organization require management to stay vigilant for any signs of rumblings or disapproval.
Long-standing employees can feel betrayed and rejected when changes are announced by management. They often experience a sense of loss, confusion, frustration and job insecurity. The plan for job advancement they have often calculated appears to be shot to pieces.
So they react with denial and resistance to the imminent changes.
Management’s ability to recognize these patterns of behavior and work to overcome any resistance establishes how well they will accomplish organizational changes. Their willingness to invest in the support and training necessary is an integral factor in achieving a positive outcome.
Employees aren’t the only ones who have to adapt to changes within the organization.
Top level managers generally bear the brunt of discontented staff from the ground up. Senior managers who have been instrumental in bringing about the changes within the organization often underestimate the impact those changes will have on their employees.
Unrealistic expectations of how their staff will react (or over-react!) often causes top level managers to retreat and isolate themselves from the problem when the impact of their proposed changes filter back to them.
However, they tend to lay the blame at the feet of middle management if employees resist or complain about the changes.
Middle management tend to carry the most stress during times of organizational change. They feel “trapped”, unless they have exceptional leadership skills; besieged by resistant employees who look to them for guidance yet often denied direction and focus by top level management.
Those in middle management often find themselves acting as the arbiter during times of organizational upheaval.
However, organizational changes within a business often prove to be a suitable testing ground for leadership qualities; from the employees all the way through to top level management.
Those who possess the qualities that define a good leader often emerge during the stressful environment that usually accompanies change. This creates an ideal opportunity for potential leaders to display those qualities and be recognized accordingly.