Work changes occur all the time, in every company committed to making progress. However, one of the biggest obstacles that managers need to overcome along the way is people’s resistance to change. Managers often take it as a given, thinking it’s human nature. Even though there is some truth in that, it’s in their power to implement change in a way that would make it easier for everyone to get on board.
As a manager, first you need to understand why people are afraid of making changes. Only then will you be able to come up with solutions that dissipate their fears. Read further to learn how to do that.
Why people are afraid of change
There are many reasons that make people resist change. Most of them are due to the lack of information, which increases their anxiety and triggers their conservation instincts. It is important to acknowledge these fears and discuss about them openly, instead of dismissing them as unfounded.
Here are some of the most frequent concerns that people have when dealing with major work changes:
1. By default, sudden changes are scary
When announcing a new initiative, senior leaders are surprised by the resistance they encounter from middle management and employees. However, these are people who haven’t been part of the planning and discussions that allowed the decision-makers to accommodate gradually with the idea of change. Instead, they find themselves facing facts that are totally new to them and not up for discussion. And you can’t blame them for being scared of the unknown.
2. People need all the information
Whenever a major change is announced, people will have plenty of concerns. They wonder especially how and why. Why is the change needed? How is it going to happen more exactly? Lack of information makes room for rumors, which lead to misinformation and panic.
3. They fear that they might not get used to the new ways
In general, change makes people feel insecure. Many of them are afraid that they won’t be able to keep track with major work changes, that they might not be good enough, and that could cost them their jobs. So they begin feeling nervous and overwhelmed.
4. Change usually means more work
The process of implementing change takes a lot of work. Things don’t always work out from the beginning and sometimes it becomes a matter of trial and error. People don’t know how to use the new software, the software has bugs, the new methods take more time, so on and so forth. No one is eager to do the extra work, especially if they can’t get any benefits out of it.
5. People assume the impact might not be worth the hassle
While leaders see the bigger picture, everyone else sees their own piece. At a macro level and in the long run, the changes might lead to great results. But not everybody shares that vision or access to all the details. So, when people don’t see an immediate benefit in doing things differently, they rightfully wonder if it’s really worth going through all the trouble.
How to make work changes easier for everyone
As a leader, it is in your power to implement changes in a way that won’t create distance between management and employees. Here’s what you can do to make changes easier for everyone and prevent any potential conflicts.
1. Involve everyone in the decision-making process
You might not be able to have a face-to-face discussion with each employee, but you can try sending out a survey and invite them to express their opinion. It will also give them time to get used to the idea of change and think things through. Having employees become part of the decision process will also instill in them some degree of responsibility, making them less likely to reject the changes.
2. Share the information
Don’t use the sterile speech that explains how the announced change is the best direction for the company. This won’t lessen people’s concerns. Instead, you should help them really understand the change. Be transparent and share the information as completely as possible. Make sure they have access to information about why the changes were needed, how they are going to improve things for the company, and be very specific about how is it going to be implemented.
3. Take it one step at a time
Unless the changes you are making are urgent – because they conflict with legal aspects or have financial consequences – you should try to implement them gradually. It’s hard for anyone to change their ways out of the sudden. Allow people to take it one step at a time, what’s important is for them to get there in the end.
4. Address personal concerns
Leave the door open to dialogue and encourage people to speak up if they are worried. It’s only natural for them to worry about their future when there are major work changes on the horizon. Help them deal with such anxieties, guide them through the technicalities and make sure they all get support from managers who are more familiar with the changes and will actually implement the new strategies.
5. Organize a Transition Management Team
The Transition Management Team (TMT) is a group of team leaders who are temporarily in charge of managing the change implementation process. They are that bridge between those who are going to apply the new strategies and the decision-makers.
6. Think things through
Make a thorough plan before you announce the changes in your company. Write down a list of questions that you anticipate and prepare your answers in advance to help people easily see the benefits of going through changes. Your plan should also focus on the stages of changes. Include a feasible timeline and try to keep it flexible. You can’t plan everything from the beginning, so you should expect some variations along the way. That’s when you need to be prepared to adapt.
7. Focus on the benefits
Those who resist change are mostly focused on the disadvantages. You need to be able to overcompensate by presenting your ideas in a positive way, highlighting the benefits. Show skeptics why the change is worth the hassle, how it can make a difference, lead to progress, and improve overall results. Use early wins to prove the positive impact of the changes.
8. Use a team collaboration solution for internal communication
A team collaboration solution is the safest way to make sure that everybody is up-to-date with the latest decisions. It also gives people the opportunity and the context to address their concerns and get answers fast, while making it easier for you to stay transparent and share valuable information.
All in all, embracing change is not easy. Yet, leaders are responsible for making the implementation process effective and helping teams adapt. If you are on the task force, remember that collaborating with your teammates will help you figure things out twice as fast, and give you important moral support. Get involved in the decision-making process and don’t try to resist change. It encourages creativity and it is the only way to ensure innovation.
Have you recently gone through major work changes? Use the comments section below to tell us how you handled everything.