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Three Ways to Manage Resistance to Change

It goes without saying that not everyone responds well to change. In fact, studies say that in any given group of staff, three to seven percent will be hardcore resisters, while about 60 percent are in the “wait and see” category. The rest just go with the flow. To manage this dynamic, you have to prevent the strong resisters from contaminating the attitude of those standing by and those moving forward. Here are three sure-fire ways to offset the resistance:

Notice who is resisting. If your top performers who don’t often make trouble are asking you to put on the brakes, stop and listen. They may be sending a signal that the course you are taking really won’t work. Take heed and use their valuable feedback to reset your plan for change. Not all resistance is bad, so consider the source before judging. Some resisters may save you from potential disaster.

Put the resisters by your side. While it’s tempting to keep them at arm’s length, including them in steering groups and committees can help you harness the resistance by giving it a voice. When resisters are included, their stance often softens. Beware, however, of giving them too much attention if they are outspoken and troublesome. Manage the group dynamic by allowing them only a fair share of airtime. Make sure all staff receive up-to-date, timely, and complete information about the reasons for the change to ensure the rumor mill is working for you, not against you.

Offer them a graceful exit option. Some resisters can’t be talked out of their misery. If the behavior becomes chronically disruptive, eroding the morale of others, take a tougher approach. Set an appointment with the resister and lay out some options: Stay in the job and begin cooperating, or leave with the organization’s support to search for other jobs within or through outplacement. Ask the resister to make a decision regarding a preferred option by a given date. Leave the decision in the resister’s hand. Too often managers are reluctant to draw a line in the sand, allowing resisters to derail a potentially positive change effort. Support those who are aligned with you and the change by working hard to eliminate barriers. Resisters are one of those barriers when their behavior becomes a hindrance to others’ performance.

Resistance to change is natural, yet sometimes it gets out of hand. Use these strategies to become efficient in dealing with the opposition.

What have been your experiences when dealing with resistance to change? What has worked well and what has been less effective?




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