Discussions about “change” happen all the time. How do we plan for it? What should we say about it? How do we manage it? Will it be seen as positive … or negative?
Research shows that resistance to change is caused by several factors, such as misunderstanding, fear of the unknown, low trust, and lack of communication.
Despite the fact that change is often positive, exciting and good for the future of the operation, people often see change as a threat to the organization that they value and identify with. Studies have shown that people have a tangible preference for things that have been around longer.
So, when we approach a discussion about change by starting with what is wrong with the current state of the operation, it fuels these fears because it signals that the change will affect the fundamentals and be far-reaching.
In two recent studies on leadership changes, it was found that leaders who were able to communicate a vision of change in combination with a vision of continuity were less likely to experience a strong wave of resistance to a change.
Consider these when developing your strategy for managing change:
- Identify how big the change will be. Multiple departments? Does it change a process? Are you introducing new technology that will replace something your team is familiar with?
- What will stay the same? Remember placing emphasis on the fact that change is happening because something isn’t working will only increase stress.
- Give your team adequate time to prepare and make sure you lay out the timeline for implementing the change. The more prepared they believe you are, the less stressed they will be.
- Don’t avoid the tough stuff. Be prepared to answer tough questions and help your team deal with their feelings of concern, fear and resistance. Your staff may be living with the belief that “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.” When this phenomenon occurs, emphasizing how their role will remain the same is critical.
Most importantly, don’t overlook the importance of including your team in the discussion or decision to implement change. Employees that feel they are taken into consideration and asked to provide input are far more likely to get behind a change rather than resist it.