Managing resistance to change

“Dear Coachplus …

I run a subsidiary which is going through major transformation.  We are doing this mainly to drive down costs to stay competitive, and support functions in particular are affected.  Although there are no redundancies, so jobs are not at risk, we have problems managing resistance to change.  This is worrying, as productivity is affected.  I had expected employees to be more positive, especially since we have gone through other business changes so the experience should not be new to them.”

Coachplus replies:

Generally, employees at the receiving end of business change are not as enthusiastic as the boss who makes the decisions.  Managing resistance to change can be tricky, and you need to know what is triggering it.  Perhaps employees don’t understand (or accept) the need for change; they can be overloaded by initiatives; or maybe they feel they have no input to decisions which affect their jobs.

Whatever the reason, you need to find out what is blocking progress and address this.  It’s good management practice to connect effectively with employees, and this is especially true during periods of change so you can elicit their views.  Not just a nice-to-have: without such information, managers insufficiently gauge employee readiness for change, including the degree of change that is feasible, and support needs.  No surprises, then, that the same managers find themselves managing resistance to change, and an initiative going off track.

In your case, the situation is worsened by the fact that productivity is also affected.  Is the productivity loss significant?  Increasing?  Visible externally?  Hopefully not.

I urge you to take stock of your change planning.  If you can view your transformation initiative from your employees’ perspective, then you will be far more effective at managing resistance to change.  So worthwhile, as if an initiative requires more change than the employee culture is able to bear, then it’s a given the initiative won’t succeed as planned.


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