We have all heard of the phrase that ďchange is inevitable.Ē What do we do, however, when employees have a hard time or donít want to change? How do we help them overcome their resistance to change? Is it even possible? While overcoming the resistance can be difficult, it is possible to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Get buy-in early. When putting together a plan, get input from all levels of the organization. People are more engaged and accepting of changes if they are brought into the process from the planning phase.
Donít be afraid to tell employees about change. There is a temptation to not disclose information for as long as possible when a major change is sure to meet with resistance. While this may seem like a good idea, itís not. Employees need time to prepare. Unleashing a last minute company-wide change is unfair. Face it, sometimes upper management may think, but not actually realize the widespread ramifications of certain decisions. Management had months to prepare, but not giving the staff enough time to ask questions will cause problems.
Be as upfront as possible. While there are some details which must remain confidential, communication is important. In fact, communicate, communicate, communicate. Just when you think youíre done, communicate some more. Let employees know why the change needs to occur. If itís the budget, say itís the budget. Tell the truth, employees do not like to be tricked. Changes are an opportune time to work on gaining and maintaining employee trust.
Be the role model. There is nothing worse than management staff criticizing its own plans. Show others you are excited and accepting of the change. If the change is as simple as wearing blue pants every Monday, show up every Monday in blue pants Ė without complaining and without fail.
Identify the hard-core resistance. There will be those that resist for very valid reasons. There will be those that resist "just because." Quickly identify the hard-core resistance. For employees, who have a valid reason, make sure you listen and make decisions accordingly. For example, if the decision is to close the store early on Fridays, but the front-line employees know you get the bulk of the business on Friday evening, you may want to listen.
There will be some, however, who have done nothing but devote their life to being difficult. They really donít have a valid reason for resisting change; they just want to stir the pot. This is a group which will need to be identified fairly quickly before they have a chance to create havoc. Pull them aside for a special meeting. Ask them about their objections and why. The object is to get them to be tolerant of the changes as they occur. If the changes are not working, let them know the company will be revisiting the issue to see what adjustments are necessary.
Finally, donít be afraid to admit that the decision was the wrong one to make at the current time. Donít keep a new policy or procedure in place if itís not working just to save face. Admitting a mistake will go a long way in gaining and keeping the trust of some very valuable employees and helping them accept the next change.