Change Management Resistance: How to Pull Against the Push
By Jason Lipes
April 7, 2021
Perhaps David Bowie sang it best, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange.”
Change often feels that way. Strange, unfamiliar, unknown and uncomfortable.
Resistance is inevitable. There is no way to completely prevent it, but there are ways to manage it. To help, I’m sharing some of Prosci’s tools for managing resistance with the broader audience.
1. Listen and understand objections
This is one of the most effective things to do, but too many times we listen to respond rather than listen to understand. Try to put yourself in that person’s shoes. What else are they dealing with besides this change? As the listener, you don’t always have to respond. Sometimes listening and empathizing is enough. Take note of their concerns because others, most likely, also share the same worries.
2. Learn to ♫ let it go, let it go ♫
Focus on the “what” and let go of the “how.” Not all changes need to be completely prescribed by leadership. Where you can, try to include your team in developing the path to the end goal. Most people are much more willing to perform a new process they were part of designing rather than a process that was given to them. This will also help create engagement and advocates for the change.
3. Remove barriers
Our first job as a leader is to support our team. This is even more important when embarking on a new change. We can’t ask our team to perform a new process that is going to take more time when they’re already overworked. As a leader, you may need to reprioritize their workload or hire additional team members. This ties closely to number one because you can’t remove the barrier until you understand what they are.
4. Provide simple, clear choices and consequences
This tactic puts the control back into the hands of the employee. When communicated effectively, it can make the individual feel empowered to pick the option that best meets their need. However, in some cases the choices may not be so simple. For example, one choice may have the consequence of finding employment elsewhere.
5. Create hope
One role of a successful change manager is that of a salesman. We need to paint the picture of the future state for those who can’t see it themselves. It is easier to convince someone of the change when they know they’re working towards a brighter future. Emotion is contagious and expressing enthusiasm can spread to others.
6. Show the benefits in a real, tangible way
It helps to share how others have benefitted from the change. This takes it from an unproven idea to a documented improvement option. You can use case studies, testimonials, or just show the data.
7. Make a personal appeal
Use this method sparingly. If you’ve built up strong relationships, you can occasionally use that capital to ask others to trust your judgement.
8. Convert the strongest dissenters
The strongest dissenters can also be your most vocal advocates if you’re able to convert them. First, get them engaged in the change. This can’t be done forcefully. But if you’re able to address their concerns and sell them on the value, this can be a great tactic.
9. Demonstrate consequences
Use this tactic sparingly, too. Sometimes showing individuals that the consequences are real and will be enforced is required. Use this when there is a key individual who is demonstrating significant resistance. Make sure to get HR involved. Also, ensure you aren’t unfairly applying the consequences.
10. Provide incentives
We all appreciate incentives, whether that’s money, acknowledgement, career progression, or something else. Remember that it doesn’t always have to be monetary, think through all the different ways you can create incentive.
If you have other methods that you’ve used in the past with great success, I’d love to hear them. To partner with us on a quality project, please email me at email@example.com.