10 Tips for Managing Resistance to Change

Managing resistance to change is an essential part of any organizational change strategy.

Inevitably, organizational change efforts will meet with resistance.

Handling that resistance well can make change go smoothly – you can get more support, better results, and higher ROI.

Handle that change ineffectively, however, and you’ll run into unnecessary roadblocks. Results will suffer, morale will dip, and productivity can drop.

Below, we’ll look at 10 ways you can avoid these negative consequences.

Resistance to change is one of the most common obstacles that businesses face during organizational change.

There are a few common causes for this resistance, such as:

  • Fear of job loss, automation, or unfamiliar ideas
  • Inertia
  • Busy schedules
  • No desire to learn new things

The 10 tips we list below address these type of problems, and can help you manage resistance to change.

Ideally, you can replace that resistance with support, boosting project results across the board.

1. Provide a great experience.

Change doesn’t have to be boring.

In fact, it shouldn’t be.

The less boring – or threatening, scary, or ominous – it is, the more employees will support it.

Make change fun and exciting through:

The better the experience you can create, the happier employees will be.

2. Communicate early and often.

Communication is essential to success.

This skill has been labeled one of the most useful skills in change management, and for good reason.

Change management is a people-centered discipline.

The more you communicate with them, the more you can understand, influence, and convince them.

Among other things, effective communication can help you nip resistance in the bud – especially when you hold open discussions early on.

3. Deliver benefits to everyone involved.

Your change program should be beneficial, not just to the organization, but to employees.

Naturally, it is not always possible to benefit the entire affected workforce.

However, when and where possible, create positive change.

Benefits can include things such as skills development, improving workflows, and improving work conditions.

Once you have these benefits articulated, sell them to employees – they’ll resist less when they know what’s in it for them.

4. Train, educate, and onboard.

One cause of resistance is cognitive overload.

In other words, too much information, too fast.

When people have to learn new skills, such as software, they will often throw up barriers.

This can hinder productivity and engagement, which will slow down your change project. And it will impact your project results.

Effective employee training and onboarding – through the use of e-learning tools and digital adoption platforms, for instance – can streamline learning.

The result: resistance drops dramatically.

5. Personalize.

Digital technology makes it easier than ever to personalize many areas of the employee experience.

Here are a few ways you can personalize change programs:

  • Offering personalized training, for instance, through digital adoption platforms
  • Individualized career development pathways, through HR counseling, mentorship, and e-learning opportunities
  • Multi-channel communication strategies that allow employees to choose their preferred communication style

These are just a few ways to personalize change programs with digital technology.

Further investigation should reveal other methods – which will further decrease resistance and boost employee support.

6. Champion and lead change, don’t just manage it.

Change programs should be led, not just managed.

There should be a visible, actively engaged leader at the top – an executive sponsor, a business leader, or the person behind a given change initiative.

However, develop a system for recruiting change champions at all levels.

These advocates will help you lead change “locally,” within departments and teams.

Such leaders can embody change and lead by example.

This will, in turn, boost enthusiasm and decrease feelings of resistance.

7. Understand group psychology with change models.

Change models, or change frameworks, are fundamental to change management.

Examples include:

These frameworks will help your change team understand the psychology of change and group dynamics.

Importantly, such change models are specifically built to help you mitigate resistance and build support.

8. Be analytical.

Change management is often viewed as “the people side of change.”

And this is appropriate.

After all, a good portion of change management focuses on obtaining worker support … while reducing resistance.

However, it’s just as appropriate to fuel success with data.

This data can include:

  • Employee feedback
  • User testing and usage statistics from software
  • Change management metrics and KPIs

Such data can offer insight into the causes of employee resistance.

You can then use that data to develop plans for overcoming that resistance.

9. React, respond, and stay agile.

Resistance to change should be circumvented – a confrontational or dictatorial response will typically have a bad result.

When you come across signs of resistance, explore its causes, then respond accordingly.

Resistance left unaddressed will just fester, so address it quickly.

Effective communication, employee monitoring, and feedback mechanisms can help you learn about problems before they become too large.

10. Develop a sophisticated, multi-pronged change strategy.

Finally, remember that there is no magic bullet.

The best approach to solving employee resistance is a multi-sided, sophisticated change strategy.

All of the tips mentioned here can help you create great, well-rounded change programs.

A balanced approach like this will, in turn, help you understand, prevent, and reduce employee resistance.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.