When you find your team is resisting change, how do you handle it? What do you do next? There is no one right answer but there may be a change management strategy more likely to succeed in your situation.
Change fear is often the underlying driver of most types of resistance to change. An intense change fear or phobia of changing things is called Metathesiophobia. This is often linked to the fear of moving, called Tropophobia. This is all interesting stuff which we may discuss in a future article specifically about Metathesiophobia. However, today we will focus on the typical change fear that can prevent organizations from moving forward.
Types of Resistance to Change
If you are lucky, only a mild discomfort is felt by a small number of people in your group. The change fear causes the team member to get quiet or “check out” when something new is discussed. As a leader of your change management strategy, you need to be on the lookout for these subtle clues and avoid any public embarrassment.
The discomfort can quickly turn to resisting change if the individual’s tension reaches a breaking point. In these cases, consider regular one-on-one meetings to explore alternatives. Encourage suggestions from your team and openly discuss potential disaster scenarios that the transition may produce. This will not only improve on the change management strategy, but as the concerns are heard, the level of comfort often increases. Your goal is to encourage each individual to engage in the process.
Things are not always so simple, so your change management strategy needs to be prepared for many other types of resistance to change. Consider Logical & Rational, Psychological and Sociological opposition.
Logically Resisting Change
The pushback you receive may be very rational and based on legitimate concerns. Not everyone will agree on all the facts driving the effort. For example, employees may be resisting change based on the time allowed or budget allocated for the switch. Often there is concern is over expectations. Whether specified or implied, the idea that current levels of production need to be maintained while the transition takes place can raise concerns. Disagreement over the reality of the learning curve can also cause conflict.
- What timeframe would be achievable?
- What budget could get the job done?
- Would additional temp services improve our chances of success?
- How would we utilize the additional help?
Not every concern can be resolved. You may never get to a point where everyone is comfortable. However, it is important that momentum builds in the direction of successful transition rather than the group resisting change. This trend can quickly lead to the project’s demise.
Psychological Types of Resistance to Change
An emotional change fear can be a more difficult challenge. Everyone is likely to have a different basis for their anxiety. Uncovering the root cause can be tricky but here are a few that are common:
- Fear of the unknown
- Mistrust in management
- Jeopardized job security
- Threatened ego
- Low change tolerance
- Limited self confidence
- Lack of trust in the team
These types of resistance to change are often at the individual level. The concern can also permeate throughout the team. Keep an eye out for signs of unease and challenge them at the individual level first. Seek to understand where the change fear originates and discuss with the team. Participation and involvement is key in creating a successful change management strategy.
If a particular challenge is too much for the team to overcome, seek opportunities to make a statement with your actions. The psychological types of resistance to change can grow quickly. Especially when team members express their concerns with others in small groups. Avoid active sabotage from team members by pausing the project. This shows the team that their success is prioritized above the success of this particular effort. Adjust the time frame or offer additional support if you feel that will more appropriately address concerns. Trust is key and if you sense that you have lost it, do what needs to be done to earn it back.
Sociological Change Fear
Your team is made up of individual people, not robots. These people have built relationships and systems for getting things done. That may include informal hierarchies and connections they depend on to perform their function at work. When this is threatened by a shift in process or alteration of the organizational structure, you are likely to see employees resisting change.
The formal or informal culture of a team can be strong. It is important to treat the situation with respect and seriousness. Be transparent with your intended outcome and the change management strategy to get there. This will help the team see the bigger picture. Surprises in this situation are risky because they tend to weaken any trust that has been built.
Project Risk Management
A key component of your change management strategy is project risk management. This will be an ever-evolving collection of potential issues that may arise. Most teams call this document the risk register. As you get to know the team and their concerns, you will be better equipped for successful project risk management. Understand the logical concerns, the psychological types of resistance to change and the sociological change fear that your team might develop. Be specific with the potential problems. This will allow you to be specific with how you will manage the issue or mitigate its negative effects to the project.
Get Help on your Change Management Strategy
Seeing into the future is difficult. Experience in many different situations helps to anticipate potential problems. Our team of highly skilled consultants thrive on challenges and enjoy helping teams find success. Reach out for a free consultation to discuss your change management strategy or any types of resistance to change that you encounter. We are here to help!