While most people in leadership want to move full steam ahead at any cost, it is important to stop and appreciate those who are cautious or even fearful about the change being imposed upon them.
People react to change in many different ways. Some may respond with fear while others may respond with denial. This resistance to change can be better handled if we knew the reasons why.
Here are five reasons people resist change and what you can do about it:
1. People fear being different--especially when there's no precedent
We're creatures of habit. For the most part, we love routine and procedure. If it hasn't been done before, there will be some in your organization who likely can't see the end from the beginning.
Every organization needs a visionary, but merely stating your vision is not enough. You also have to show, not just tell. You can demonstrate how you would like to do things before actually doing it.
Minimize the frustration and hurt feelings by communicating and demonstrating. Wherever possible, keep some things the same. Stay focused on the important reasons change is being sought. And avoid a follow-the-leader-because-I-say-so attitude.
2. People feel overwhelmed or stressed
Fatigue can be a killjoy for change. If an organization has been through a lot of upheaval, people may resist change simply because they're tired. And when people are tired, they tend to be cranky, angry, and irritable.
It has been my experience that when the environment is tense or inundated with projects, the people in that environment will be the same way.
When this is the case, leaders have to be understanding of people's complaints and attentive to their needs throughout the change process. Keep the reasoning for change front and center, and make the environment more conducive for future change.
3. People fear a departure from the status quo
By definition, implementing change is a departure from "the way it's always been done." Those who were a part of the old way or who have another idea are likely to be defensive of both.
Transformation, especially when it's from the top down, can make people feel uncomfortable. Some people may feel betrayed. Others may simply dread the new day that changes may bring.
In either case, leaders can help people embrace change by acknowledging those parts of the past that were good while at the same time making it clear that the change being presented is necessary.
4. People lack trust in the one making changes
When people respect their leaders, it's often because the leader has built trust over a period of time. When a new leader step in to replace an old leader, it's important that the new leader embrace the responsibility of building trust with the people they lead.
If trust is not built, then mistrust is the default response and mistrust often becomes evident in a resistance to change.
Leaders can build trust by being honest and then by including people in the change process. Further, they can create an environment in which people believe the change can be implemented and managed for the benefit of all.
5. People know change brings a new set of possibilities and problems
Many people prefer for things to stay the way they are than for it to head off into a direction that is largely uncharted or unknown. By instinct, we know that a new way presents both possibilities and problems. But most would rather reject the possibilities if it also means avoiding the problems.
There's a common saying: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."
Change is risky in any institution. You can balance resistance by creating certainty of the process.