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Handling Change In The Workplace

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed. Management doesn’t seem to understand the impact of change on my day-to-day workload.”

That headline is a common complaint from employees at firms seeking to move toward a strategic vision that encompasses organizational change. Another concern, middle managers – those expected to be your primary conduit between strategy and implementation – voice the same challenges. An impartial, experienced coach will help break through resistance at all levels and jumpstart organizational change.

Handling change in the workplace is a challenge

No one ever said that change was easy. Even the bosses who are recognized as the World’s greatest ever change leaders – CEOs like Jack Welch at GE, and Lou Gerstner at IBM – faced challenges that had to be overcome. As strange as it may seem, such change management talents had to learn their craft and discover how to counteract resistance to change. Handling change in the workplace is a challenge for all.

Resistance to organizational change is seen at all stages

One thing that our clients soon come to realize is that resistance to change is encountered throughout the process of change, and takes on several different forms:

  • Disbelief is often encountered at the outset or even initial announcement of organizational change. Questions of “Why do we need to change?” soon turn to an avalanche of adverse reaction.
  • Lethargy manifests itself in apathy toward change. This is often seen in middle management, with a lack of energy for the project spreading through the organization.
  • Questioning the progress made is a common tactic of resistors to spread their own negative views.
  • Denial of the need for organizational change will be voiced at any shortfall in expected outcomes. The resistance to change will grow as resistors point to small shortfalls as evidence of the change program, making everyone’s jobs and targets more difficult to accomplish.
  • Reluctance to change is usually evidenced by people reverting to the old way of doing things.
  • Depression is seen most in the people who you might consider to be motivated and most empowered by organizational change. These people want it all yesterday, and may become dismayed at the slow pace of change and questioning why the initiative was ever started.

Forward Focus coaches have extensive executive coaching experience in handling change in the workplace. They are experts at identifying the type of resistance to change encountered during a change program, and then in creating unique solutions in each individual situation.

Forward Focus produces organizational change aids such as “Learning to Conquer Resistance”, specifically designed to help organizations when faced with the challenges of handling change in the workplace.

Gerstner and Welch learned from experience and watching other accomplished managers in action. The experience of the Forward Focus consulting team brings proven change management strategies to the table. These strategies will help you overcome resistance to change in all its forms: your most ardent resistors will become your most enthusiastic change advocates.

A strategy for dealing with resistance to change

Let’s get back to the headline we began discussing. Here there are several forces at play, with the employee placing the blame squarely on management. The employee doesn’t want to change his working routine, and will see any minor problem as a big issue and a further reason for change. Of course, he or she doesn’t believe they should shoulder any of the responsibility – they probably didn’t see the motives for the organizational change to begin with.

When you encounter resistance to change, try listening to what is being said: after all, the person speaking probably knows more about the direct impact of the change program on them and their way of working.

Reflect before taking action

Effective change management begins with effective planning. First, reflect on the possible impacts of change. Ask yourself:

  • Where and who will be most impacted through the change program?
  • Who is likely to be most resistant to change, and need the most help?
  • How will you communicate the reasons for change, expectations, benefits and progress?
  • Are the concerns being voiced genuine issues, or resistance to change?

After these reflective questions have been answered, only then should you take appropriate actions:

  • Create a forum for the review of the organizational change program, and identify key stakeholders and threats to change.
  • Set open discussion meetings to discuss all aspects of your change program. Communication is key when handling resistance in the workplace.
  • Reinforce the reasons for change and answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Allow time for people to accept organizational change. Ensure that you ‘hold the hands’ of those most opposed to change. Discuss their fears and anxieties with them in frank and honest one-to-one sessions, answering their concerns and offering solutions to problems encountered.

Jumpstart change by reinforcement

Even when you think you’ve crossed the finish line, don’t be fooled into taking your foot off the gas. Years of doing things a certain way institutionalizes behavioral patterns. Reasons for the change program, benefits to the company and individual, and the risks of not following through with the new processes, procedures, and methodologies will need to be reinforced long after expected results have been achieved.

There may be decades of accepted behaviors that need to be redefined and replaced. The new ways could take some time to become embedded as accepted by all, and any relaxation in the change management effort could jeopardize the whole program way into the future.

Get game-changing strategic advice from Forward Focus

Forward Focus has a number of tools and management consultancy solutions designed specifically to tackle the challenge of handling change in the workplace. One of these is “Learning More to Conquer Resistance.” We’re making this available as a free downloadable document. To download your copy, simply click here and you’ll also benefit from free additional content and information that will aid you as you jumpstart your change program.

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