There is a lot of literature surrounding resistance to change: managers and supervisors tend to have a negative opinion of resistance (“employees are dragging their feet and slowing down the process”), researchers tend to define resistance as a natural process that occurs due to fear of the unknown.
However, there is little debate about a phenomenon called informed disagreement. In some cases employees resist change as they are not informed of the reason why it is taking place, what are the risks for the organisation if the change does not take place now. Sometimes the resistance stems from a lack of understanding of “what’s in it for the employee”, from a lack of training or knowing what it is required from te employee when, for example, a new system will be implemented.
These are phenomenons that pertain the management of the change process. A break down in the process is very likely going to lead to resistance.
However, in some cases there are no “holes” in the change management process and the resistance stems from the fact that the employee (usually the end user) believes that the solution that we are going to implement is not going to resolve the problem.
Let me give you an example: it is not unusual for senior managers in an organisation to come and go with significant frequency. A manager that was appointed two years ago may lose his/her job or move to another organisation.
Most often than not, when a new senior manager is appointed s/he wants to make changes the department/business unit and achieve quick wins to establish their reputation. In order to fulfil there personal agenda, it is not infrequent for end users to be literally bulldozed and imposed solutions that may not be the best for a specific situation.
I remember working with a client that attempted to impose the solution that the previous manager decided to eradicate with the new ERP before he lost the job and was replaced by a senior manager that thought the latest ERP was inadequate and wanted to impose the use of the previous solution without knowing that such tool had been “binned” by his predecessor. Needless to say it did not go down very well with the end user and this choice tarnished the credibility sf reputation of the new senior manager.
When the end user is voicing his/her concerns about a change management initiative it is not necessarily linked to resistance as we normally perceive it. It can be a phenomenon of informed disagreement (as a end user I do not believe that the solution that the organisation wants to implement is going to work). They understand the reasons behind the change, the personal and organisational motivators, they have been provided with communication and training that will allow them to perform and yet their resistance is linked to the solution itself.
What to do in this case?
- Diagnose the root cause to determine if the resistance is linked to a break in the change management process (e.g. lack of the reason why change is taking place, reluctance from the employee to adopt the required change due to a loss of status or loss of his/her job, lack of training, etc)
- Once the root cause is known we can take corrective measures. If we determine that the resistance is linked to informed disagreement the best course of action is to ask for the employee’s feedback, listen to the “resistors” and change our plans if their suggestions have merit.
Just because a new senior manager has joined the organisation, it does not mean that the solutions that s/he wants to implement are necessarily the right ones or that they are better than what the company has already in place.
When we face resistance we always have to access its root cause in order o address it in the correct way. In a car of informed disagreement, for example, more training on how to use the tool is not going to change the end users’ opinion. We need to enter into a conversation with them and take their point into consideration.
We have to remember that resistance is not necessarily bad and that those employees that are not on board with the solution that the organisation wants to implement may have valid points and that with their contribution they can help taking corrective measures that ultimately contribute to the bottom line and make the company more successful.
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