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Worker output, employee retention, teamwork and other aspects of workplace productivity are targeted for improvement by change projects. But these are also the things that can be negatively affected by employee resistance to change. If the resistance is mild, it might take the form of employee inertia. But major resistance may be demonstrated as sabotage or rebellion. Consequently, it's important to create change management strategies, such as involving employees in the change processes, that might minimize employee resistance to workplace change.
Involve Stakeholders in Change Planning
Stakeholders -- those with an interest in a project’s outcome -- influence a project's success. Involving the appropriate stakeholders in a change management project can accelerate its progress, increase its value and decrease its risk. Ignoring stakeholders can disrupt a project schedule and lead to a project’s failure. To best assure project success, leaders should identify and begin to communicate with project stakeholders early in the project planning process to understand their attitude toward the project. Only then will the project reflect the stakeholders’ perspectives.
Communicate the Need for Change
Organizational change can be distracting and confusing as Rosabeth Kanter suggests in “Ten Reasons People Resist Change.” Change becomes all-the-more distracting if company leaders impose it’s immediate implementation, rather than alert a company’s employees to future changes and invite their discussion. According to Kanter, in the first case, workers often resist the change. Sarah Fenson writes in “Inc.” that leaders should speak to employers as soon as possible regarding why the change is needed, the nature of the change and what the change is expected to achieve.
Minimize the Employees' Loss of Control
In some cases, stakeholders may resist change because there's no guarantee a change will achieve a desired outcome and a bad situation might be made worse rather than improved. Consequently, people may dread the loss of control over their work tasks. To minimize the employee’s perception of the change as a threat, it’s important for the stakeholders to be invited to participate in the planning and implementation of the change. It’s also important that stakeholders be able to choose one of several alternatives to be implemented, rather than be forced to accept a change selected by management.
Minimize the Disruption of Work Processes
With change may come new expectations of employees, improved or diminished access to workplace resources and possibly employee reassignment or layoff. According to “Managing Through Change,” published by the University of California, because employee self-esteem and well-being is tied to work, people might feel threatened by such workplace changes. Consequently, workplace change or disruption can lead to stress and employee medical and behavioral issues that affect individual and group performance. In addition, adaptation to change takes time and is successful only if employees have an opportunity to adapt to the change. For this reason, it’s a good idea to minimize workplace changes and introduce them in phased processes.
- Harvard Business Review: How to Deal With Resistance to Change
- American Society for Quality Quality Progress.com: Stakeholder Management 101
- Inc.: 10 Tips for Communicating Change
- Harvard Business Review: Ten Reasons People Resist Change
- Harvard Business Review: Overcoming the Disruption of Process Change
- University of California, Davis Campus: Managing Through Change
- Business Improvement Architects: Managing Resistance to Change
Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.
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