It is human nature to resist change; after all, there is comfort in knowing what to expect. However, in the modern workplace, there is no way to avoid change. From technology to leadership, to processes and strategies, change is inevitable. When implementing change, employees will feel apprehensive, but full-on resistance to change can be a major challenge. When workers resist change it can spell trouble for your bottom line.
Change Resistance Has Real Business Impact
When employees flat-out refuse to accept change, it causes major headaches for leaders and managers as well as the employees who embrace the change. However, change resistance can damage your organization’s ability to compete. Some of the most dangerous impacts of resisting change include:
- Lowered morale: Just one negative, vocal employee can drag the rest of the team down, making them feel less engaged in their work.
- Workplace disruptions: Workers who truly fight change can become disruptive. They may be combative with co-workers or managers, they can create workflow bottlenecks and they can damage relationships. This all leads to a hostile work environment where productivity takes a hit.
- Adoption failure: Any time you implement a change, your targets and goals depend on the workforce adopting that change. When employees drag their feet, use workarounds or simply refuse to adopt the new policy or procedure, it makes it impossible to hit those targets and realize success.
- Turnover: All the above factors can leave talented employees feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with their work environment, ultimately leading to turnover.
Strategies for Overcoming Change Resistance
It is unrealistic to expect that when you announce a change, the entire team will climb on board and wave their proverbial pom-poms in support. However, you can improve change adoption with some critical strategies.
- Communicate: As soon as leadership approves a change, announce it to the workforce to show your commitment to transparency and to immediately open the lines of communication. Transparency and openness breed trust.
- Focus on benefits: Change may make employees feel nervous about their job security, their ability to do their jobs well, etc. When presenting the change, focus on the benefits and whenever possible, have managers connect those benefits directly to individual employees.
- Let employees ask questions: Communication is a two-way street. Show you understand your employees’ apprehensions and you want to work through them by allowing ample time for team members to ask questions. Address all questions as honestly and thoroughly as you can.
- Identify your cheerleaders: Just as you have people who resist change, you’ll also have people who embrace it rather quickly. Identify your early adopters and use them to spread good will. They might be tapped to help train other employees, you might ask them to present the benefits of the change in a staff meeting, etc. Peer pressure works both ways, so tap into your positive employees to combat the negative.