" There is little doubt that change is one of the defining characteristics of modern life.. " - Kris Magnusson.
" There is little doubt that change is one of the defining characteristics of modern life.. " - Kris Magnusson.
" .. change does not come about by sending a memo, word-smithing a plan for others to implement, publishing a vision statement, or conducting a one-off senior executive road show or inspirational corporate video. If the change matters to you, then you role up your sleeves and get involved in the real work that is involved. You do not get distracted and you do not give up..." Peter Saul
Dr. A. J. Schuler is an expert in leadership and organizational change. To find out more about his programs and services, visit www.SchulerSolutions.com.
Overcoming Resistance to Change:
Top Ten Reasons for Change Resistance
by A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.
1. WHEN THE RISK OF CHANGE IS SEEN AS GREATER THAN THE RISK OF STANDING STILL
Making a change requires a kind of leap of faith: you decide to move in the direction of the unknown on the promise that something will be better for you. But you have no proof. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe and perhaps more importantly, feel that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction. Making a change is all about managing risk. If you are making the case for change, be sure to set out in stark, truthful terms why you believe the risk situation favours change. Use numbers whenever you can, because we in the West pay attention to numbers. At the very least, they get our attention, and then when the rational mind is engaged, the emotional mind (which is typically most decisive) can begin to grapple with the prospect of change. But if you only sell your idea of change based on idealistic, unseen promises of reward, you wont be nearly as effective in moving people to action. The power of the human fight-or-flight response can be activated to fight for change, but that begins with the perception of risk.
2. PEOPLE FEEL CONNECTED TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE IDENTIFIED WITH THE OLD WAY
We are a social species. We become and like to remains connected to those we know, those who have taught us, those with whom we are familiar even at times to our own detriment. Loyalty certainly helped our ancestors hunt antelope and defend against the aggressions of hostile tribes, and so we are hard wired, I believe, to form emotional bonds of loyalty, generally speaking.
If you ask people in an organization to do things in a new way, as rational as that new way may seem to you, you will be setting yourself up against all that hard wiring, all those emotional connections to those who taught your audience the old way - and thats not trivial. At the very least, as you craft your change message, you should make statements that honor the work and contributions
of those who brought such success to the organization in the past, because on a very human but seldom articulated level, your audience will feel asked to betray their former mentors (whether those people remain in the organization or not). A little good diplomacy at the outset can stave off a lot of resistance.
3. PEOPLE HAVE NO ROLE MODELS FOR THE NEW ACTIVITY
Never underestimate the power of observational learning. If you see yourself as a change agent, you probably are something of a dreamer, someone who uses the imagination to create new possibilities that do not currently exist. Well, most people do not operate that way. Its great to be a visionary, but communicating a vision is not enough. Get some people on board with your idea, so that you or they can demonstrate how the new way can work. Operationally, this can mean setting up effective pilot programs that model a change and work out the kinks before taking your innovation on the road. For most people, seeing is believing. Less rhetoric and more demonstration can go a long way toward overcoming resistance, changing peoples objections from the It cant be done! variety to the How can we get it done? category.
4. PEOPLE FEAR THEY LACK THE COMPETENCE TO CHANGE
This is a fear people will seldom admit. But sometimes, change in organizations necessitates changes in skills, and some people will feel that they wont be able to make the transition very well. They don't think they, as individuals, can do it. The hard part is that some of them may be right. But in many cases, their fears will be unfounded, and that's why part of moving people toward change requires you to be an effective motivator. Even more, a successful change campaign includes effective new training programs, typically staged from the broad to the specific. By this I mean that initial events should be town-hall type information events, presenting the rationale and plan for change, specifying the next steps, outlining future communications channels for questions, etc., and specifying how people will learn the specifics of what will be required of them, from whom, and when. Then, training programs must be implemented and evaluated over time. In this way, you can minimize the initial fear of a lack of personal competence for change by showing how people will be brought to competence throughout the change process. Then you have to deliver.
5. PEOPLE FEEL OVERLOADED AND OVERWHELMED
Fatigue can really kill a change effort, for an individual or for an organization. If, for example, you believe you should quit smoking, but you've got ten projects going and four kids to keep up with, it can be easy to put off your personal health improvement project (until your first heart attack or cancer scare, when suddenly the risks of standing still seem greater than the risks of change!). When you're introducing a change effort, be aware of fatigue as a factor in keeping people from moving forward, even if they are telling you they believe in the wisdom of your idea. If an organization has been through a lot of upheaval, people may resist change just because they are tired and overwhelmed, perhaps at precisely the time when more radical change is most needed! That's when you need to do two things: re-emphasize the risk scenario that forms the rationale for change (as in my cancer scare example), and also be very generous and continuously attentive with praise, and with understanding for people's complaints, throughout the change process. When you reemphasize the risk scenario, you're activating people's fears, the basic fight-or-flight response we all possess.
But that's not enough, and fear can produce its own fatigue. You've got to motivate and praise accomplishments as well, and be patient enough to let people vent (without getting too caught up in attending to unproductive negativity).
6. PEOPLE HAVE A HEALTHY SKEPTICISM AND WANT TO BE SURE NEW IDEAS ARE SOUND
It's important to remember that few worthwhile changes are conceived in their final, best form at the outset. Healthy skeptics perform an important social function: to vet the change idea or process so that it can be improved upon along the road to becoming reality. So listen to your skeptics, and pay attention, because some percentage of what they have to say will prompt genuine improvements to your change idea (even if some of the criticism you will hear will be based more on fear and anger than substance).
7. PEOPLE FEAR HIDDEN AGENDAS AMONG WOULD-BE REFORMERS
Let's face it, reformers can be a motley lot. Not all are to be trusted. Perhaps even more frightening, some of the worst atrocities modern history has known were begun by earnest people who really believed they knew what was best for everyone else. Reformers, as a group, share a blemished past . . . And so, you can hardly blame those you might seek to move toward change for mistrusting your motives, or for thinking you have another agenda to follow shortly. If you seek to promote change in an organization, not only can you expect to encounter resentment for upsetting the established order and for thinking you know better than everyone else, but you may also be suspected of wanted to increase your own power, or even eliminate potential opposition through later stages of change.
I saw this in a recent change management project for which I consulted, when management faced a lingering and inextinguishable suspicion in some quarters that the whole affair was a prelude to far-reaching layoffs. It was not the case, but no amount of reason or reassurance sufficed to quell the fears of some people. What's the solution? Well, you'd better be interested in change for the right reasons, and not for personal or factional advantage, if you want to minimize and overcome resistance. And you'd better be as open with information and communication as you possibly can be, without reacting unduly to accusations and provocations, in order to show your good faith, and your genuine interest in the greater good of the organization. And if your change project will imply reductions in workforce, then be open about that and create an orderly process for outplacement and in-house retraining. Avoid the drip-drip-drip of bad news coming out in stages, or through indirect communication or rumor. Get as much information out there as fast as you can and create a process to allow everyone to move on and stay focused on the change effort.
8. PEOPLE FEEL THE PROPOSED CHANGE THREATENS THEIR NOTIONS OF THEMSELVES
Sometimes change on the job gets right to a persons sense of identity. When a factory worker begins to do less with her hands and more with the monitoring of automated instruments, she may lose her sense of herself as a craftsperson, and may genuinely feel that the very things that attracted her to the work in the first place have been lost. I saw this among many medical people and psychologists during my graduate training, as the structures of medical reimbursement in this country changed in favor of the insurance companies, HMO's and managed care organizations. Medical professionals felt they had less say in the treatment of their patients, and felt answerable to less well trained people in the insurance companies to approve treatments the doctors felt were necessary. And so, the doctors felt they had lost control of their profession, and lost the ability to do what they thought best for patients. My point is not to take sides in that argument, but to point out how change can get right to a persons sense of identity, the sense of self as a professional. As a result, people may feel that the intrinsic rewards that brought them to a particular line of work will be lost with the change. And in some cases, they may be absolutely right. The only answer is to help people see and understand the new rewards that may come with a new work process, or to see how their own underlying sense of mission and values can still be realized under the new way of operating. When resistance springs from these identity-related roots, it is deep and powerful, and to minimize its force, change leaders must be able to understand it and then address it, acknowledging that change does have costs, but also, (hopefully) larger benefits.
9. PEOPLE ANTICIPATE A LOSS OF STATUS OR QUALITY OF LIFE
Real change reshuffles the deck a bit. Reshuffling the deck can bring winners . . . and losers. Some people, most likely, will gain in status, job security, quality of life, etc. with the proposed change, and some will likely lose a bit. Change does not have to be a zero sum game, and change can (and should) bring more advantage to more people than disadvantage. But we all live in the real world,
and let's face it if there were no obstacles (read: people and their interests) aligned against change, then special efforts to promote change would be unnecessary. Some people will, in part, be aligned against change because they will clearly, and in some cases correctly, view the change as being contrary to their interests. There are various strategies for minimizing this, and for dealing with steadfast obstacles to change in the form of people and their interests, but the short answer for dealing with this problem is to do what you can to present the inevitability of the change given the risk landscape, and offer to help people to adjust. Having said that, I've never seen a real organizational change effort that did not result in some people choosing to leave the organization, and sometimes that's best for all concerned. When the organization changes, it won't be to everyone's liking, and in that case, it's best for everyone to be adult about it and move on.
10. PEOPLE GENUINELY BELIEVE THAT THE PROPOSED CHANGE IS A BAD IDEA
I'll never forget what a supervisor of mine said to be, during the year after I had graduated from college, secure as I was in the knowledge of my well earned, pedigreed wisdom at age twenty-two. We were in a meeting, and I made the comment, in response to some piece of information, Oh, I didn't know that!
Ricky, my boss, looked at me sideways, and commented dryly, Things you don't know . . . fill libraries. The truth is, sometimes someone's (even gasp! my) idea of change is just not a good idea. Sometimes people are not being recalcitrant, or afraid, or muddle-headed, or nasty, or foolish when they resist. They just see that we're wrong. And even if we're not all wrong, but only half wrong, or even if we're right, it's important not to ignore when people have genuine, rational reservations or objections. Not all resistance is about emotion, in spite of this list I've assembled here. To win peoples commitment for change, you must engage them on both a rational level and an emotional level. I've emphasized the emotional side of the equation for this list because I find, in my experience, that this is the area would-be change agents understand least well. But I'm also mindful that a failure to listen to and respond to people's rational objections and beliefs is ultimately disrespectful to them, and to assume arrogantly that we innovative, change agent types really do know best. A word to the wise: we're just as fallible as anyone.
What’s holding us back? Ultimately, it’s fear.
It's almost always fear. Fear is the number one reason why people stay in their safety zones. It's why people don't start new businesses. It's why people stop looking for love. But what are we afraid of? After studying fear for several years and working with countless clients who were letting fear hold them back, I've become convinced that when it comes down to stepping outside one's comfort zone, there are really two things at work for most people: fear of success and fear of failure. Fear of Success Many people say they have a fear of success. What does this mean? It means that when these folks envision their success, they see the ways in which they'll disappoint people, the ways they won't be able to handle the success, the ways they'll mess up their success ultimately, I actually believe that a fear of success is a fear of failure in disguise. In my experience, most people aren't actually afraid of success, but rather of failing after the success. They're afraid they can't handle it and they'll fall much farther than if they'd never tried at all. It's much more painful to fall from, say, a 20-story building, than it is to fall from a sidewalk curb. It's the fall from the height of success that we fear, not the success itself.
Fear of Failure
Let's look at fear of failure, since that's at the core of what's holding people back. I've recently updated my thoughts about fear of failure. I've been reading Seth Godin's book, Tribes, and Godin has some absolutely profound and brilliant thoughts on the fear that keeps us in our comfort zones. In Tribes, Godin says that there's a common misconception about a fear of failure. He says
that the fear of failure isn't actually fear of failure at all it's a fear of criticism. We're more afraid of being judged for our failures than anything else. So now that we've isolated this fear of criticism, what does one do about it? How do you conquer the one thing that gets in the way more than anything else - more than lack of skills, more than lack of knowledge, more than bad luck or anything else you might think of how do you conquer fear?
It would be easy for me to say that you just shouldn't care what others think about you. What they say doesn't matter, doesn't define you, has nothing to do with you. I could easily say that. But the problem is that we're not just subject to the criticism of others when we fail. We still have to face our harshest critic: ourselves. But here's the secret most people don't know. It's a secret that most successful people know. You don't actually have to conquer fear. You have to master it. Mark Twain once said, Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear not absence of fear. Successful people aren't people who conquered fear, they're people who faced fear. They're people who were afraid and did it anyway. For example, one of the most prevalent, persistent fears people have is public speaking. It's something most of us don't do very often and it's something most of us don't particularly care for. I'm one of the oddities I actually love speaking to groups. But like many others I know who enjoy public speaking, I get nervous before I go on stage. My palms sweat, I think about how I wish I'd never agreed to do the gig, and I think of all the ways I can get out of doing it. And then I step on stage anyway, and within a few moments, I'm actually having so much fun connecting to the crowd that I forget all the fear and just live in that moment. That's mastering fear, folks. That's what it's all about. A part of it is doing something over and over and showing yourself that you can do that thing. That builds confidence and confidence is a formidable tool against fear. Usually we're afraid of the stuff we're not very good at. What are you afraid of? Think about that for a minute and then when you have the answer, ask yourself how often you do that thing. If you're not very good at something, you tend to fear it. If you make a decision to face the fear and forge ahead with courage, you'll eventually make courage a habit- and you'll master that fear.
So what's holding you back right now? What are you afraid of, and how can you face that fear with courage?
Take out a piece of paper and a pen and turn the paper on its side so you're writing across the long side. Make five columns on your paper. In the first column, make a list of the things that scare you the most. Then in the second column, for each of those fears, write down what is the absolute worst thing that could happen if your fears came true. In the third column, write down how likely the worst thing is to happen. Then in the fourth column, write down how that fear is holding you back. In the last column, for at least one of the fears you've listed, write down how you are going to face that fear. Make it tangible- give yourself an action to take and a date by which you will take that action. And follow through!
Everybody is afraid of something. The most successful people have mastered fear with courage and learned to forge ahead. Today, make a decision to forge ahead with something in your life or in your business. Make a decision to face at least one of your fears. Take a risk and get better at something you're afraid of. Face a fear with courage and you'll see payoffs emerging faster than you ever could have imagined.
"Managing change means managing people's fear. Change is natural and good, but people's reaction to change is unpredictable and irrational. It can be managed if done right" - F. J Reh
Fear Of Change
Nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. Nothing has greater potential to cause failures, loss of production, or falling quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of your organization as change. History is full of examples of organizations that failed to change and that are now extinct. The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the employees, is
definition and understanding. Resistance to change comes from a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss. The front-end of an individual's resistance to change is how they perceive the change. The back-end is how well they are equipped to deal with the change they expect. An individual's degree of resistance to change is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how severe they expect the impact of the change to be on them. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the person has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system. Your job as a leader is to address their resistance from both ends to help the individual reduce it to a minimal, manageable level. Your job is not to bulldoze their resistance so you can move ahead.
Perception Does Matter
If you move an employee's desk six inches, they may not notice or care. Yet if the reason you moved it those six inches was to fit in another worker in an adjacent desk, there may be high resistance to the change. It depends on whether the original employee feels the hiring of an additional employee is a threat to his job, or perceives the hiring as bringing in some needed assistance. ·
A promotion is usually considered a good change. However an employee who doubts their ability to handle the new job may strongly resist the promotion. They will give you all kinds of reasons for not wanting the promotion, just not the real one.
You might expect a higher-level employee to be less concerned about being laid off, because they have savings and investments to support them during a job search. However, the individual may feel they are over extended and that a job search will be long and complicated. Conversely, your concern for a low-income employee being laid off may be unfounded if they have stashed a nest egg in anticipation of the cut. Your best salesperson may balk at taking on new, high potential account because they have an irrational feeling that they don't dress well enough. If you try and bulldoze this resistance, you will fail. The employee whose desk you had to move will develop production problems. The top worker who keeps declining the promotion may quit rather than have to continue making up excuses for turning you down. And the top salesperson's sales may drop to the point that you stop considering them for the new account. Instead, you overcome the resistance by defining the change and by getting mutual understanding.
On the front end, you need to define the change for the employee in as much detail and as early as you can. Provide updates as things develop and become more clear. In the case of the desk that has to be moved, tell the employee what's going on. "We need to bring in more workers. Our sales have increased by 40% and we can't meet that demand, even with lots of overtime. To make room for them, we'll have to rearrange things a little." You could even ask the employees how they think the space should be rearranged. You don't have to accept their suggestions, but it's a start toward understanding. Definition is a two-way street. In addition to defining the problem, you need to get the employees to define the reasons behind their resistance.
Understanding is also a two-way street. You want people to understand what is changing and why. You also need to understand their reluctance. You have to help your people understand. They want to know what the change will be and when it will happen, but they also want to know why. Why is it happening now? Why can't things stay like they have always been? Why is it happening to me? It is also important that they understand what is not changing. Not only does this give them one less thing to stress about, it also gives them an anchor, something to hold on to as they face the winds of uncertainty and change. You need to understand their specific fears. What are they concerned about? How strongly do they feel about it? Do they perceive it as a good or a bad thing?
Don't try to rationalize things. Don't waste time wishing people were more predictable. Instead, focus on opening and maintaining clear channels of communication with your employees so they understand what is coming and what it means to them. They will appreciate you for it and will be more productive both before and after the change.
In Change Management, the noun of commitment means the undertaking by all employees to participate in and dedicate their paid service hours to fulfilling the outcomes of their paid tasks as well as facilitate and action the workplace change project.
However more times than not, Project Change Coordinators are challenged by a level of commitment that can sometimes appear apathetic, coercive or misleading. This quietly administered adversity may be from managers, who are resisting change, or service professionals who are resisting change, no matter how big or small that resistance may be. Emotional responses that are not conducive to the proposed change tend to demonstrate varying levels of personal commitment to the change as well as to personal
So, how can an already fully service committed workforce also be persuaded to fully commit to the change project?
One of the areas of full commitment is payday. All employees are fully committed to receiving wages for services rendered. The employees wage has agreed terms and conditions and so far those terms and conditions may not have included processing a change.
This does not mean that the employee, irrespective of their status within the organisation, is not required to fulfill their obligations to the wellbeing of the company by supporting, helping to facilitate and actioning change. But what it does mean is that the added workload, for the tactical response group in particular, will be far greater than for a management group, should that management group be top down delegators as opposed to hands on doers. In this way the political dynamics of the organisation will play a big part in whether or not the proposed change is going to be processed within the desired time frame and with the desired
result. This always reflects an imbalance in the levels of commitment between groups. This imbalance nearly always creates communication barriers. Therefore the key to increasing levels of commitment in a workforce that is already fully committed to their service level is human communication.
Communication that builds trust between the organisational service groups is advised. Trust development must begin with the
proponents of the change project sharing their vision with all employees in the clearest and most transparent way possible.
The important element to remember, when building trust relationships during change, is that the process of change is not perfect. Individual histories of trust experiences will influence an employee’s ability to fully commit to change objectives. Personalities interpret communications in unique ways and perspective plays a big part in how employees view their role in the facilitation and actioning of the change process. Consequently, be prepared for emotional responses, that will need to be considered in the project planning of trust development, if you want to be successful in furthering trust relationships, in a workplace that may already have strong trust relationships in place. For trust is a firm belief that something can be relied upon . Individual perceptions of the meaning of change produce all kinds of emotional pro-actions and responses. So the key question to ask yourself when developing a change management, trust development communication program in order to facilitate commitment to the change project is:-
“how can I be confident that the expectations of this change project will be reliable, dependable and obliging for all concerned”.
Kevin Dwyer of The Change Factory had this to offer:-
“Building trust by communicating early and often, establishing standards of performance as part of the change program; training, coaching and counseling people to enable them to execute to the standards of performance, and setting a low tolerance
level for non-performance will build pride in a job well done, leading to career advancement. This approach has built self sustaining momentum in a Change Program every time I have used it. Many organisations think they do it when
instituting change. However, most organisations do not. Most change programs fail the longevity test.”
Dwyer’s trust development program is founded in the belief that “low tolerance for non-performance is a key element.. (in the building of).. critical mass”.
Mr. Dwyer communicates confidently that the low tolerance expectations of his change program will be reliable, dependable and obliging for all concerned. He further suggests that while a few people may be altruistic about change, the major motivator is “What's In It For Me?" from which he offers the acronym WIIFM.
Under his WIIGM Program, Dwyer suggests 5 reliable, dependable and obliging trust development considerations which are:-
1. low tolerance outcomes for non-performance
2. career advancement and remuneration outcomes as a result of a completed change process
3. personal pride in a job well done as an outcome of the change management process
4. recognition of the employees capability to change, and
5. changed standards of performance.
Kevin Dwyer’s objectives demonstrate a high level of confidence and expectation in the outcomes of his trust development program, that is designed to increase the commitment levels of employees undergoing organisational change. He also records a solid record of achievement using his methods.
For more information about the Change Factory please go to http://www.changefactory.com.au