Employee resistance to change in the workplace is nothing new. Leaders and managers accept the pushback that comes when rolling out new procedures, changes in operations, shifts in hours, status, or even the loss of a prime parking space. How you deal with resistance makes the difference between gaining cooperation and respect and being viewed as an uninvolved, autocratic administrator.
Whether the resistance comes from a single dissenter or an entire department, use the following steps to gain cooperation:
Step1. Clearly state what you want, when you want it and how it will affect individual jobs. Use a firm but neutral or positive tone of voice. Refrain from conveying disappointment, anger or defeat. Your particular situation or location will dictate the appropriate vocal expression.
Step2. Decide beforehand how much time you will allot to objections, groaning and griping. Inform the person or team you are addressing about the time limit. Let them vent.
Step 3. Listen to understand concerns. What underlying emotions are behind the complaints? What are the real fears behind the protests? Often the real fears will not be voiced in the initial session and until further questioning your understanding may be based on false assumptions.
Step 4. Check your perceptions by reflecting back your understanding of the concerns. Do not allow another round of protests, rather simply check for confirmation.
Step 5. If appropriate, ask for suggestions. Not every circumstance will allow for this but to the degree that employees feel engaged in the process the quicker the cooperation. Once again, do not allow suggestions to go on forever and keep the conversation on suggestions only—not grousing. Be involved. Listen and list possibilities without judging. Put it all down. Be open to viable proposals.
Step 6. Suggest a review or an opportunity to revisit the impact of the change after a test run or implementation. This is a good practice to put into place whenever a new procedure or shift has taken place, regardless of the initial response. Small changes made at this re-visit may prevent a complete breakdown if left unchecked. This is also an excellent opportunity to increase face-time, engage employees and learn something new.
Step 7. If these steps fail, explain the costs of noncooperation. Change is what makes an organization stay competitive, robust and profitable. Dissenters may be in the wrong position or job so act accordingly.
Cooperation comes when people know and feel they are part of something bigger. Employees know that changes occur but welcome the opportunity to influence the outcome and success. However, just because you communicate openly and involve employees by asking for suggestions, does not mean they make the final decision. Be a leader—listen, learn and them implement.
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