One of the most fascinating aspects of management is why, when confronted with the same organisational change, some employees resist it, others simply comply with it, but only a minority champion it. Those categories – resistance, compliance, and championing – have been investigated in new research led by scholars from the University of South Australia.
They surveyed more than 200 employees currently working for an organisation in the throes of a major merger. Uncertainty and angst were widespread and yet there was one factor that made employees far more likely to be champions of change than to just passively comply or resist it. The researchers call it mutual expectation clarity. Here’s what it means:
When managers set clear expectations of the organisational change in terms of its rationale, process and outcomes – and, just as importantly, obtain from employees their own expectations of what they think will unfold – employees then experience less uncertainty and less angst, thereby leading to greater championing of the change.
That reciprocal relationship-based approach to change management is novel; it has only just been identified and named. The scholars have given it a slogan – change as social exchange – which infers that change management, no matter how technical and operational, is still fundamentally about people and the extent to which they perceive the change to be a threat.
So, before embarking on any change project, it’s worthwhile making sure each of these five factors have been ticked off, all of which have emerged as highly influential in the study for minimising any perceived threats that arise due to misaligned expectations:
- Your employees have a clear view of the new strategy and vision of the organisation.
- They understand the practical consequences of the change for their team.
- Their new roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.
- They know exactly what’s expected of them in the new-look organisation.
- They know precisely what to expect from you as their employer from now on in terms of how they’ll be treated and the benefits they’ll receive.
Get those five elements right from the outset and you’ll have every reason to be optimistic about the change’s success. As the scholars conclude: “A manager’s actions today can affect employees’ support for change tomorrow.”