Managing the Transition: How to Face Employee Resistance Head On When Introducing Workplace Changes


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A preponderance of managers and supervisors are overly familiar with long sighs and disheartened groans from their employees when they introduce yet another organizational change or a new initiative. And in the aftershock of a devastating recession, the sighs and groans are turning into fear.

While supervisors do not have the authority to reject or the power to deflect organizational change, they do have the opportunity (and, we believe, the specific responsibility) to clearly and truthfully communicate the reasons for change.

Similar to a stool with three legs, three easy steps can greatly assist managers in creating a sound platform for transition during periods of change:

3 Ways Leaders Can Face Employee Resistance Head On to Make the Transition Easier for Everyone Involved…

1. Managers need to be convinced that the change is indeed needed. For example, the change is either opportunistic or required to ensure ongoing business viability and success. By focusing on what is needed, the options to create it (including an examination of risks or exposure) and the intended results from it, you will determine what change needs to happen. You will see why the changes need to happen right now. You will able to develop a strategic plan on how the changes will occur. And, you’ll be able to determine the value and impact that each change will bring to your organization.

2. Next, managers need to understand the change experience through the lens of their employees. Employees will be more open and willing to support change when they are given information that clearly addresses their fundamental questions. Honest, open, timely and truthful communication is absolutely essential during a transition. This means your management team must agree on an accurate, forthright and unified response to the following five questions.

* What is the change? (Get specific)
* How was the decision made? (Include who made the decision)
* Who does it impact, and what does it mean to them?
* What is the value of the change to the organization and the employees? (Focus on benefits and effects.)
* What are the next steps? (Describe the roles and actions.)

3. Lastly, management needs to establish effective ways for sharing (communicating) this information with employees through multiple channels. For example, if there are individual employees who will be impacted more than others (particularly if there are perceived negative implications), general courtesy and good ethic implies you meet first with these employees. Share the same information but specifically describe how it affects them and their position. This should be done immediately before the departmental meetings. Smaller, team-style meetings provide a more open and comfortable environment for questions and discussion. All-staff meetings are also an option depending on the size of the organization (such as those with less than 50 employees) and assuming that your message is not laden with “bad-news” to specific employees or groups whom have not yet heard the message. It is also helpful to consistently communicate the message of change as critical for the company, through written format, such as a company memo or newsletter, assuming the message is clear, straight-forward, and focused on the value of the change (benefits), or the sincere effort to prevail (i.e., a legitimate downsize or layoff) in times of challenge.

Managing the transition and implementing change is critical for organizations. Poor behavior, poor communications and poor execution will have long-term negative consequences for the organization.

Remember, change provides opportunity. So, help your employees embrace a new paradigm of change as an opportunity versus the widely held and limiting perspective of change as an unsolicited and undesirable mandate.

How you manage the transition will be remembered by the employees. Good behavior will clearly have positive long-term effects. Poor behavior will lead to contention, lack of trust, lack of productivity and turnover. So unless you goal is to close the business, poor change behavior is not a long-term success strategy.

Actions Have Consequences – Make Yours Positive Especially in the Time of Change

Keeping employees well-informed and engaging them will foster a climate of resiliency and it will build momentum that will advance your organization. This level of employee engagement is reinforced by what Geoff Colvin recently presented in the Fortune Magazine article, How are Most Admired Companies Different. Colvin mentions that champion companies “ensure they understand what employee engagement means, measure it and hold managers (not just HR staffers) accountable for it, and connect it to business objectives…” We strongly believe that change, whether for growth, improvement or survival/reinvention is key to business productivity, efficiency and intimately, profitability.

Tony Kubica
Management Consultants and Business Performance Improvement Specialists Sara Laforest and Tony Kubica have 50+ years of combined experience in helping small and large businesses accelerate their business growth in record times. Failure to properly motivate your team is just one way that you can be sabotaging your business. Get the full report on Self-Sabotage in Business.


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