Bringing about workplace change is a process that requires careful handling, a lot of thought, and a fairly logical approach. Firstly there needs to be the recognition that change is required. Secondly, it’s necessary to get a commitment from the critical mass of people. Thirdly, it requires the building and discussion of a shared vision. Fourthly, it needs a good look at the current situation. Fifthly, it requires a process of getting to the objective. This sounds pretty simple, however, there will be greater or lesser resistance to change.
From a leadership point of view, you have to ask, “Why does resistance exist?” And then, “How can I work at minimizing or reducing it?” There are a wide range of reasons why there is resistance to change. Resistance to change is normally a mixture of historical, factual and emotional issues which are not simple or easy to sort out.
Resistance to change can include, fear of the unknown, lack of information, misinformation, historical factors, perceived threats to status, perceived threats to power base, no perceived benefits, poor relationships, fear of failure, strong peer group pressure and perhaps a reluctance to experiment. Listing the possible causes for resistance can be useful because it can be seen that some are easier to deal with than others. Low trust may be a key issue but will take a lot longer to fix than dealing with simple misinformation.
Resistance comes in two basic forms. Systemic and behavioral. Systemic resistance is the result of a lack of knowledge, information and leadership capacity. Behavioral resistance describes resistance coming from the reactions, perceptions, and assumptions by individuals and groups within the organization. In terms of causes, it can be seen that systemic resistance is cognitive, whereas behavioral resistance is emotional. When you look at it like this you can see that systemic resistance is a lot easier to remedy than behavioral resistance.
If it is proposed to introduce change with out high levels of involvement and information, you can guarantee that the levels of resistance will be higher. I will take a negative view of any change that is imposed on me and I will direct all my energy to resist the change so that it fails. The less I know about plans to change, the more I assume, then, the more suspicious I get and once I feel manipulated or uninvolved, I will not co-operate. Are you any different?
During the uncertainty of any change, communication levels should rise dramatically. To a certain extent this may reduce some of the resistance. However, measuring the resistance will require a lot of attention to the natural individual and group processes of prejudice, assumption, perception and jumping to conclusions. All of these processes take place with or without facts.
By Grace Milton