Overcoming Resistance to change

Seven tactics have been suggested for use by change agents in dealing with resistance to change. Let’s review them briefly.

Education and Communication: Resistance can be reduced through communicating with employees to help them see the logic of a change. Communications reduce resistance on two levels. First, it fights the effects of misinformation and poor communication: If employees receive the full facts and get any misunderstandings cleared up, resistance should subside. Second communication can be helpful in selling the need for change Indeed, research shows that the way, the need for change is sold – change is more likely when the necessity of changing is packaged properly.

Participation: It is difficult for individuals to resist a change decision in which they participated. Prior to making a change, those opposed can be brought into the decision process. Assuming that the participants have the expertise to make a meaningful contribution, their involvement can reduce resistance, obtain commitment, and increase the quality of the change decision. However, against these advantages are the negatives: potential for a poor solution and great consumption of time.

Building Support and Commitment: Change agents can offer a range of supportive efforts to reduce resistance. When employees’ fear and anxiety is high, employee counseling and therapy, new skills training or a short paid leave of absence may facilitate adjustment. Research on middle managers has shown that when managers or employees have low emotional commitment to change, they favor the status quo and resist it. So, firing up employees can also help them emotionally commit to the change rather than embrace the status quo.

Negotiation: Another way for the change agent to deal with potential resistance for change is to exchange something of value for a lessening of the resistance. For instance, if the resistance is centered in a few powerful individuals specific reward package can be negotiated that will meet their individual needs. Negotiations as a tactic may be necessary when resistance comes from a powerful source. Yet one cannot ignore its potentially high costs. In addition, there is the risk that, once a change agent negotiates with one party to avoid resistance, he or she is open to the possibility of being blackmailed by other individuals in positions of power.

Manipulation and Cooptation: Manipulation refers to covert influence attempts. Twisting and distorting facts to make them appear more attractive, withholding undesirable information and creating false rumors to get employees to accept a change are all examples of manipulation. If corporate management threatens to close down a particular manufacturing plant if that plant’s employees fail to accept an across the board pay cut, and if the threat is actually untrue, management is using manipulation. Cooptation on the other hand, is a form of both manipulation and participation. It seeks to buy off the leaders of a resistance group by giving them a key role in the change decision. The leaders’ advice is sought, not to seek a better decision, but to get their endorsement both manipulations and cooptation are relatively inexpensive and easy ways to gain the support of adversaries but the tactics can backfire if the targets become aware that they are being tricked or used Once discovered the change agent’s credibility may drop to zero.

Selecting People who accept Change: Research suggests that the ability to easily accept and adapt to change is related to personality. It appears that people who adjust best to change are those who are open to experience, take a positive attitude towards change, are willing take risks, and are flexible in their behavior. One study of managers in the United States, Europe, and Asia found that those with a positive self concept and high risk tolerance coped better with organizational change. The study suggested that organizations could facilitate the change process by selecting people who score high on these characteristics. Another study found that selecting people based on a resistance-to-change scale worked well in winning out those who tended to react emotionally to change or to be rigid.