Skill no. 13: Managing resistance to change

Managers play an important role in organizational change – that is, they often serve as change agents. However, managers may find that change is resisted by employees. After all, change represents ambiguity and uncertainty, or it threatens the status quo. How can this resistance to change be effectively managed?

You can be more effective at managing resistance to change if you use the following suggestions:

Assess the climate for change

One major factor why some changes succeed and others fail is the readiness for change. Assessing the climate for change involves asking several questions. The more affirmative answers you get, the more likely it is that change efforts will succeed.

  • Is the sponsor of the change high enough in hierarchy to have power to effectively deal with resistance?
  • Is senior management supportive of the change and committed to it?
  • Is there a strong sense of urgency from senior managers about the need for change, and is this feeling shared by others in the organization?
  • Do managers have a clear vision of how the future will look after the change?
  • Are there objective measures in place to evaluate the change effort, and have reward systems been explicitly designed to reinforce them?
  • Is the specific change effort consistent with other changes going on in the organization?
  • Are managers willing to sacrifice their personal self-interests for the good of the organization as a whole?
  • Do managers pride themselves on closely monitoring changes and actions by competitors?
  • Are managers and employees rewarded for taking risks, being innovative, and looking for new and better solutions?
  • Is the organizational structure flexible?
  • Does communication flow both down and up in the organization?
  • Has the organization successfully implemented changes in the recent past?
  • Are employee satisfaction with and trust in management high?
  • Is there a high degree of interaction and cooperation between organizational work units?
  • Are decisions made quickly, and do decisions take into account a wide variety of suggestions?

Choose and appropriate approach for managing the resistance to change

There are six tactics that have been suggested for dealing with resistance to change. Each is designed to be appropriate for different conditions of resistance. These include education and communication (used when resistance comes from lack of information and inaccurate information), participation (used when resistance stems from people not having all the information they need or when they have the power to resist), facilitation and support (used when those with power will lose out in a change), manipulation and cooptation (used when any other tactic will not work or is too expensive), and coercion (used when speed is essential and change agents possess considerable power). Which one of these approaches will be most effective depends on the source of the resistance to the change.

During the time the change is being implemented and after the change is completed, communicate with employees regarding what support you may be able to provide

Your employees need to know that you are there to support them during change efforts. Be prepared to offer the assistance that may be necessary to help your employees enact the change.


Author: bd


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