Small-scale change yield big results: manage resistance to change by making smaller, incremental shifts.
Few things in life are as inevitable as change and the mixed feelings that come with it. While many of us aim to accept change in stride, it is human nature to experience resistance to change.
However natural this resistance may be, research shows that 47% of resistance to change can be avoided through effective change management practices. Ultimately, resistance can be minimized with the right change management strategy.
In this article, we’ll explore the nature of resistance to change and the best ways to manage it through the following topics:
- Why We Fight Change
- The Roots of Resistance
- Making Small-Scale Change
Why We Fight Change
With change comes the potential of endless possibilities. While potential can be promising, it also indicates the unknown. For this reason, many people react negatively to the idea of change. Simply put, resistance to change comes naturally for those that fear the unknown.
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Even if an upcoming change can lead to positive shifts, the status quo may seem safer than whatever the future may hold. Additionally, many aren’t ready to abandon the old way of working, especially if accepting change requires a significant shift in their roles at work. From changes in processes, routine procedures, and job titles, such transitions can pose a threat.
Change leaders who hope to make a positive organizational change should consider resistance and plan their change strategy accordingly. By proactively designing a change management strategy that accounts for the common causes of resistance to change, you’ll be able to better integrate these changes when they occur.
The Roots of Resistance
Fighting resistance to change starts with understanding the root of resistance. Consider the following reasons for resisting change:
1. A Lack of Confidence and Trust
Change can cause employees to doubt leadership. This is typically true when there is a lack of clear communication from the top down. If team members aren’t able to trust that leaders have their best interests at heart, resistance can be a natural response to sudden change initiatives.
Additionally, it’s important to note that resistance to change isn’t always about the initiative itself; it’s often about the person proposing the change. If team members don’t feel comfortable with the leader that is proposing the change, they are much less likely to be receptive to the change. What’s more, this distrust of leadership can also easily poison others’ opinions about upcoming change.
Leaders would do well to foster relationships with their teams through transparent and open communication. Trust takes time to build, but it’s a crucial component in implementing change.
2. Emotional Reactions
Navigating the ups and downs of change can be emotionally challenging. Faced with the threat of the changing status quo, it’s easy to feel fear, depression, and anxiety. While these feelings are natural, they can cause resistance to change when left unchecked.
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Leading with empathy is critical in managing the emotions that accompany a change. Leaders must prioritize their team’s emotional responses by taking on a reassuring role. This way, all team members will feel as though they are valued and validated by the organization and its leaders.
3. Fear of Failing
Change forces us to start working in new ways. Whether the change is large or small, it creates the opportunity to learn something new. However, the idea of learning practices and processes can be very threatening to those who aren’t confident they can succeed.
Employees that feel as though they aren’t measuring up will use resistance to change as a way to protect themselves from failing. To combat the fear of failure, leaders should prioritize giving their team members the appropriate knowledge and strengthening their ability to help them navigate change. Effective training allows leaders to provide their teams with the tools and resources needed to change.
Grow your team members’ abilities by allowing them to test their skills before fully implementing a change. As you provide your team with the right tools and training, you’ll also equip them with the necessary self-confidence to accept and implement new initiatives.
4. A Lack of Communication
When organizational change occurs from the top-down, it often comes as a shock to everyone else. Leaders that don’t prioritize active communication will face resistance to change. Make an effort to engage all parties in the decision-making process with you rather than expecting them to follow along with a change without further discussion.
Change management experts recommend using a change communication plan. This strategy details announcing the change, one-on-one discussions, team meetings, and methods for reviewing and revising change based on feedback.
In designing your change communication strategy, consider questions such as:
- What’s in it for me?
- What does it mean for me?
This way, you can address each person’s concerns and validate any fears or misgivings they have regarding the change.
5. Unrealistic Timelines
Change often comes with a sense of urgency that can cause discomfort and resistance to change. Team members that are rushed into accepting change often experience anger, anxiety, and discomfort. Leaders should exercise patience by developing realistic timelines for change to take place.
Leaders can design realistic timelines for change initiatives by shrinking the change. Making your change management strategy that spans an appropriate timeline will give your team the time it needs to accept change positively.
Making Small-Scale Change
Though resistance to change is inevitable, it’s crucial to go beyond simply managing the symptoms of resistance. Design a change strategy to fight against resistance by making a plan to shrink the change. Start shrinking the change by breaking down major changes into small-scale shifts. This way, team members will have a chance to embrace the change in incremental ways.
Shrinking the change can help your organization fight resistance to change in the following ways:
1. Give Your Team Time to Adapt
When we try to make large sweeping changes in a short time, it does not allow each team member to accept the change. As immediate change can be incredibly disrupting and anxiety-inducing, taking change step-by-step gives your team a chance to accept each aspect of the transition.
2. Encourage Behavioral change
For lasting change to occur, one ultimately has to change their behavior. Creating a shift in behavior takes time, which is something leaders must allow for in their change strategy. The process of shrinking the change allows leaders to break down the biggest change into smaller habitual shifts. As each change becomes part of your team’s routine, you’ll be able to move on to the next step in your change management strategy.
3. Enjoy Small Successes
Research shows that when making changes, the smaller and more attainable a goal is, the more likely one is to achieve them. By implementing little changes like small shifts in routine, your team will be more likely to reach these goals regularly. Your team will enjoy accepting change with small, consistent wins as you reduce any additional resistance.
Transform the way you manage resistance to change. At Voltage Control, we’re here to help you thrive through change with an intentional change strategy. Contact us to learn more about how shrinking the change can transform your initiatives.