III. How Leaders Can Cope With Resistance to Organizational Change
One of the biggest challenges facing anyone in a leadership position is learning to cope with employee resistance to organizational change. When a company or other organization decides to make a shift in the way in which it operates, many employees often struggle with the changes. To alter any organization's trajectory with a minimum of conflict, good leaders have to know how to cope with this resistance.
The most important thing for a leader to do is to recognize that not every failure to comply with changes is caused by an attitude of defiance. Often times, leaders make the critical mistake of assuming that anyone who doesn't immediately fall into line with a new program must be actively trying to sabotage the changes. Though there are some rare instances in which that may happen, most resistance is of another nature.
For example, some employees simply fail to understand why the changes are occurring or what they are designed to accomplish. Others may subconsciously resist the new direction because of concerns for customers. Still others actually perceive the changes as an indication that they were not performing up to standards under the old system. Leaders have to know how to address each of these concerns.
The first is fairly simple to address, since it involves a lack of communication between the leader and those who follow him. When employees simply fail to understand why changes are occurring or how they are supposed to work, leaders can resolve the problem by providing additional education on the matter. In most cases, initial concerns fade as employees understand how the new system benefits everyone involved.
Employees who fail to grasp the benefits any changes may provide for customers can be slightly more difficult to manage. After all, these workers are so committed to ensuring customer satisfaction that they need to be firmly convinced that the company's customer base will be positively impacted before they will mentally buy into any new organizational direction. Again, education is the key to resolving this issue.
When employees feel slighted by the imposition of new changes, however, leaders must work to dissuade them from that view. Good leaders must reassure their people that the changes are not a reflection of their poor performance, but are instead being implemented to make everyone's lives easier and more productive.
The key to avoiding these situations is found in a leader's ability to demonstrate to each member of his team exactly how the proposed changes can positively impact every part of the organization. To accomplish this, leaders should begin the communication process as soon as any changes are first being considered. This can help to accomplish the organization-wide buy-in every company needs.
To achieve full buy-in at every level of the organization, communication must be ongoing. Different employees will require different levels of explanation, so leaders should always be prepared to provide individual attention when necessary. In the end, the only way to overcome resistance to organizational changeis to ensure that every member of an organization understands the positive benefits of the change and how to properly implement it.
Understand that changes take place at all companies on a regular basis. Change is necessary to grow and remain profitable. Have a realistic outlook on the change. Be open to the possibility that the change is good and work to set a positive tone for both yourself and your co-workers. Understanding your limitations and strengths will enable you to position your skills so that your boss understands your abilities and your career aspirations. Work to understand the expectation of management after the change is in place.
Ask questions. Open and honest communication is vital in reducing fears. Clear two-way communication is crucial for an effective change to take place. Ask questions of your manager, your manager's manager and co-workers. Do not repeat information you have heard from unreliable sources. Gain clarification on its validity prior to talking to others about the change. Setting a positive tone and giving straightforward information is vital for success.
The body reacts in different ways to stressful situations. Sleep, mood and appetite can all change because of the stress of coping with change. Exercising, eating healthy foods, and maintaining a consistent schedule will help the mind and body to cope with change. Clear your mind by taking time to do activities you enjoy. Activities that are calming and clear the mind will help to reduce stress levels. Understanding others' reactions to the change and acknowledging emotions will help to reduce tension in the workplace. Talk to people. Understand how the change is affecting them, and listen to what they have to say. Listening often calms fears. Good coping skills will be evident to your manager and could help accelerate your career advancement.
Continue to work throughout the change. Stalling or spending the majority of your time talking to others is not productive. Your employer will see you continuing to work and will appreciate your efforts. Working will also serve as a distraction to the changes taking place around you. Maintaining a normal routine at work will help you to keep a positive attitude. Whether it is looking for opportunities to influence the change, suggesting other ways to roll out the change, or helping other to cope with the change, your boss will notice your positive attitude.