Strategies to Overcome Resistance to Change

Have you found that even though you are committed to making a change, you resist it and find it difficult? Many leaders I work with have shared that very sentiment and asked the question "Why resist change when it is exactly what I want?"  I like to answer that question and by looking at some common reasons why people resist change. 

Here's what I people often say:

  • "Change isn't necessary"
  • "Change won't really help us"
  • "What we have is better"
  • "I don't trust the people making the change"

For many people, beliefs about change can include: change is unnecessary, change will make the situation worse, the people leading change are not trusted and/or the way change has been introduced has not been well thought out. 

Underlying all of the beliefs is a deeply rooted concern about what the change actually entails and the impact of the change.  This lack of clarity around change will naturally generate resistance from others.

A resilient organization adapts quickly to change.  How do you become that kind of organization when faced by resistance that slows down change adoption?

In dealing with resistance, leaders often mistakenly label someone as “a problem employee” or “difficult” when, in fact, the employee simply needs more knowledge, skills or structure around their performance.  If the person lacks knowledge or skills then you will want to provide them with education, training, or specific communication about the what, why, when and who of the change.  You can also take steps to involve employees in the planning and decision making for change. For those who are unwilling even though they have the skills and knowledge, you can set goals measurements, provide coaching/feedback and give rewards to motivate them.

Here are some other proven ways to address resistance and gain support for change:

  1. Encourage people to openly express their thoughts and feelings about the change in formal and informal meetings or check-ins.
  2. When resistance occurs, listen carefully to gain an understanding of the concerns.
  3. Treat resistance as a problem to solve, not a character flaw. Try to understand the person’s rationale and motivation.
  4. Once you understand the nature of the concerns, bring people together to discuss and deal with the perceived problems, and possible solutions.
  5. Communicate frequently and be willing to answer difficult questions.

For more thoughts on getting employees to support change, see my previous post on “4 Conversational Elements to Engage Others in Change.”