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Change Management - 15 December 2015

The most reputable studies conducted on change management indicate that approximately 70 per cent of change initiatives fail.  All that time, energy, planning and money goes to waste and for what?  All because too many leaders get carried away with the change itself without considering the ways in which resistance to it can be overcome.

That’s why a new analysis published in the Journal of Change Management is so important.  It challenges the predominant view that employees are ultimately responsible for their resistance. 

It’s widely believed, for example, that those who favour routine tasks, who think inflexibly, and who focus mostly on the short term, are those who most resist change in the workplace.  But what we now know is that even when employees have those same rigid dispositions – even when their default attitude is set at Resist with a capital R – they can still enthusiastically embrace change despite their stubborn inclination.  What matters most is context.  

In particular, there are three contextual factors you need to consider:

Your employees’ values:  If the change you’re about to announce contrasts sharply with your employees’ values, they’ll respond to the shock and discomfort with hostility.  That doesn’t mean you need to change the change.  Instead, modify your language and adapt your plans so that they’re aligned to the beliefs and priorities of your general workforce.

The psychological impact:  Forecast the degree to which you think your employees are going to feel emotional anguish as a result of the change.  If you suspect it’s going to be a lot, their anguish (and subsequent resistance) will be diminished the more you involve them in the change’s implementation.  This involvement can include genuine consultation, project participation, expertise development, knowledge sharing, program testing, research, and so on.

Prevailing expectations:  There are two parts to this.  First, what are your employees’ expectations?  There is no faster dive into the depths of disengagement than to neglect what they need from you as they face the change.  Second, which expectations are you setting?  In an attempt to inspire your team, be careful not to exaggerate the future benefits because, should they fail to materialise, one consequence is assured: widespread cynicism. 

To paraphrase the professor who conducted the analysis above, in order to change your employees' behaviour, you might first have to change your own.


To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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