Resistance to Change and Conflicts: How to Control Them?

Any change in technology, people or strategies has the potential to disrupt organizational work and interaction patterns. People resist change because they fear economic loss, inconvenience, uncertainty and a break in normal social life. The strategic management  process requires major changes in structure reward systems, culture, operations, HR policies etc. Reorienting an organization to get people to think and act strategically is a tough job. People may often come in the way of strategy implementation by sabotaging machines, absenteeism, airing baseless complaints and spreading wild, destructive rumors etc.

Many a time, they might resist strategy implementation because they do not understand what is happening and why changes are occurring. The following guidelines, advanced by an expert, should help classify things and overcome resistance to change.

Communicate to those involved, as far in advance as possible, the reasons for the change and the associated benefits. People need to know what is going to occur and why to dispel their fears. This is sometimes difficult because it can  place confidential information in the hands of competitors or inappropriately leak information (decisions  that could affect stock prices).

Plan proposed changes in detail and allow time for reflection. This should include a consideration of all repercussions including retaining, relocation the need for new procedures and policies and influences on morale and the reward structure. It is important to set the stage for change.

Protect those who will potentially be damaged by the change. Reductions in pay or job classifications should not be permitted. Make transfers voluntary where possible and handle reductions in-force through attrition. Allow people to bid on new job. Provide generous allowances  for refraining and make career consultation available to everyone involved. Avoid making people lose face in the change process.
Reward those who go along with the change. Establish retraining opportunities and make sure that more demanding positions receive higher pay. Provide financial incentives to those willing to transfer and  give preference to existing employees over new hires.

Make changes as gradually as conditions will permit. People tolerate evolution more than they do revolution. Advanced preparations should smooth the path for transition.

Involve people in planning the change where ever possible. Those affected should be permitted to express their objections in advance. If people participate in what is happening they will be more likely to go along. Participation is the key concept in gaining acceptance. People support what they help create.
Successful strategy implementation as pointed out, hinges upon managers’ ability to develop an organizational climate conducive to change. Change must be viewed as an opportunity rather than as a threat by managers and employees.

Managing Conflict:

Conflict is a process in  which an effort is purposefully made by one person or unit to block another that results in frustrating the attainment of the other’s goals or the furthering of his interests.

Features of conflict

–Two parties pursuing exclusive goals, values or events

–A tries to prevent B from attaining his (B’s) goals deliberately

–Conflict must be perceived  by the parties to it. It arises out of two perceptions. If A perceives his goals to be incompatible with those of B and A has no opportunity to frustrate the goals attainment of B, there is no conflict.

— Conflict is related to overt acts only.

Conflict is a basic  fact of life in groups and organizations. The very nature of organization guarantees the emergence of conflict. First, organizations contain people with divergent personalities, perceptions and values. Second, these people are put on jobs that have different requirements at different levels. Finally, people in organizations have to compete for scarce resources in order to realize goals. Conflicts thus can develop from several sources in an organization. A manager must understand the nature of conflict clearly before trying to manage the same through various strategies.

Conflicts occur routinely because of personality differences scarce resources which need to be distributed to various subunits, incompatible goals of different functional heads, task interdependence of people working at various levels  (for information, resources etc).

Conflict which is somewhat dysfunctional may be dealt with in the following  ways:

–Use your authority and disallow the warring groups to interact with each other.

–Make people follow a procedure obviously created by you, for getting their grievances resolved.

–Appoint an integrator, who knows the language of both parties, to resolve the dispute. However, much depends on the experience, expertise and persuasive skill of the integrator to get the parties to agree to one thing.

–Force people to move out of their departments. When  placed in another department, people will see the big picture. Break the departmental boundaries. Allow them to step into the shoes of another. Role reversal helps people to come out of their shell and look at things in a broad way.

–Make the people and departments fully equipped, to the maximum extent possible. The feeling of scarcity and competition for a bigger share often makes people insensitive to other’s needs. When they  stand on their own, the scope for conflicting  situations gets reduced.

Make people realize that they are working for the firm not for the department where they are placed. Politicians often speak about external threats from neighbouring countries so that internal groups do not fight beyond a point. Putting emphasis on goals such as market share, service with a smile, profitability makes people focus on the target instead of working  toward mutually conflicting departmental goals.

At times this may also work. Allow the fire to take its own course for some time, especially when the issue is trivial.

Bring both groups to the negotiating table. Allow them to make their respective demands. Make them realize the importance of give and take. When concessions are agreed upon by both parties, agreements are bound to come.

When there is a minimum level of trust between both parties and there is no time pressure for a quick solution, the best way is to follow integrative problem solving.  Here parties are made to define the problem, develop as many alternative solutions as possible.

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