Change Resistance - 9 December 2014
There’s a simple reason why so many employees are resistant to change: They’ve been burnt by it too many times in the past and so now they’re jaded and cynical, unable to trust that the latest initiative will be implemented considerately.
Organisations are often excellent at instigating and embedding change. They hire talented project managers and teams of professionals who expertly take care of the technical details. What they frequently neglect, however, is the people side of things. And hence we have employees pushing back, sabotaging, withdrawing.
It’s true that leaders have massive influence over the degree to which employees resist change. For example, the help you provide, the attention you give, the care you demonstrate, the appreciation you show – all of that has a big impact. But a new study published in the Journal of Change Management has offered a different perspective.
The researchers have discovered that co-worker support has as much of an effect – if not more so – than supervisor support. What this means is that the key to getting employees to embrace change has more to do with their colleagues than with you personally. In particular, the researchers pinpointed four elements, each of which you can still play a role in amplifying.
Co-workers help each other: Whenever someone falls behind with their work, their colleagues voluntarily lend a hand. You can facilitate this by establishing support groups in which employees voice their concerns about the change and devise team-based solutions.
Co-workers offer encouragement: When someone seems down or lacking in motivation, colleagues step in to lift their spirits. You can promote this behaviour by establishing peer-to-peer recognition programs for actions related specifically to the change.
Co-workers share their expertise: When team members learn something new, they eagerly teach it to their colleagues. You can make this widespread by appointing subject matter experts in the team who coach and train each other on various aspects of the change.
Co-workers resolve conflict: When disagreements arise, colleagues immediately look for ways to deal with it peacefully. You can expedite this process by providing your employees with training on conflict resolution, personality differences and resilience.
There’s a Japanese proverb that’s quite instructive about change: The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.
It could be that you have several oaks in your team. During times of change, you’re probably best served getting their colleagues on side first – the bamboos. Because it’s not unusual for employees to trust their peers more than they trust their boss.
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