Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Big organizational changes are happening all around the world. We’re seeing restructurings, leadership transitions, layoffs, policy changes, and new technologies, more often now than ever.
These rapid shifts in our work landscape create a sense of unrest among employees (1). This is why we’re seeing tidal waves of anxiety and productivity slumps. All of which can have a lasting impact on people’s health, a company’s culture, and economic outlook.
So, let’s better understand why organizational changes create resistance among employees, so that we can help them transition smoothly and even achieve growth.
Why Do Employees Resist Change?
Most of us want security and stability in both our personal and professional lives. Unfortunately, organizational change is inevitable in today’s economic climate. And when order is disrupted, it’s normal to see people pushing back, at least initially.
That’s why what separates a thriving company from the others is the way its management approaches change. This process starts by identifying areas of resistance. And here are a few common reasons why employees resist change:
Fear of losing their jobs
Past negative experiences with change
Loss of control
Loss of support and resources
Lack of competence in new skills
Lack of reward and encouragement
Five Ways to Support Your Team Through Organizational Change
Organizational change requires an investment of time, effort, and patience. It’s all worthwhile because we’re empowering our teams to resiliently adapt to our future of work.
And once we’ve identified points of resistance, we can better devise and implement strategies like these to help people transition more seamlessly:
1) Communicate transparently
A study by McKinsey found that clear and continual communication spearheads successful transitions (2). That said, leaders need to clearly articulate what the change entails, why it’s necessary, how are employees affected in the process, and what are the positive outcomes of these changes.
By setting a transparent and positive narrative from the beginning, we prevent unwarranted fears and rumors. Leaders can also uncover any concerns employees may have. Ultimately, organizations that transition successfully are built within cultures of honesty, respect, and inclusive discussions.
2) Empower those at the top
Successful transformations are more likely to be achieved when senior leaders model desired behaviors and mindsets (2). Therefore, those at the top need to be equipped with skills and resources that help them maneuver the change.
It helps to engage change management professionals to host training sessions on how to effectively direct transitions, manage emotional upheavals, and address areas of resistance. This may include Design Thinking workshops, change management training, or even sessions to teach leaders how to manage their own stress levels while leading the pack.
3) Seek and acknowledge feedback
People need to feel like their voices are heard, and that their concerns are worth taking into consideration. By soliciting feedback and making employees feel like they’re part of the transition process, they’re more likely to champion the change.
To encourage transparency, companies may conduct anonymous surveys during the start, middle, and end of the change process. The management team must then reflect and take action on collective concerns. This two-way process ultimately helps people feel engaged, heard, and excited about the future of the business.
4) Leverage emotional intelligence
Any form of change is bound to rev up a plethora of emotions. Employees will experience anxiety and fear to relief and excitement. These emotions, along with how the change will impact them, will dictate their degree of resistance.
That’s why leaders need to show compassion and empathy. This begins by understanding and validating the unique emotions people are experiencing. It has even been proven that leaders that proactively practice emotional intelligence are better equipped to drive positive change and navigate obstacles (3).
5) Develop milestones and rewards
Change can take weeks, months, and sometimes years. Hence, it helps to break the change into small rewardable milestones to keep optimism and enthusiasm alive.
And to keep the momentum going, we need environments that cheer on those who are part of making the first steps possible. This creates a culture of goodwill, which takes businesses to higher levels of performance, even during challenging times (4). Ultimately, it’s about celebrating desired behaviors instead of chastising negative ones.
Regardless of the magnitude of change, obstacles and resistance will arise because change comes with risks. Hence, we need a clear purpose and strategy to empower our teams into successful transformations. And when transitions are done right, we safeguard our future of work because our teams are now equipped with more resilience to navigate upcoming changes 💪
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