Change cannot always guarantee success, however, in the business world, change is essential for implementing organisational growth. Employees who are resistant to change can cause headaches for team leaders, creating the need for change management.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

In this article, we’ll be looking at how to deal with a resistant team through change management. But before you look to reduce your team’s resistance to change, you need to understand why we resist change in the first place.

Why do employees resist change?

Change is a natural occurrence in life, yet we all approach it with different perceptions and behaviours. While some members of your team may relish a new challenge or opportunity, others could feel anxious or concerned about adapting to new routines. There are many reasons why employees resist change – some may even be justified, due to poor management or leadership.

Other reasons can include:

  • Concerns for job security
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Bad communication 
  • Lack of support or trust
  • Lack of incentive
  • Poor relationships with team leaders/management

Before proceeding with any changes to your organisation’s operation, it’s best to make sure you are ready for change to take place. Change readiness assessment tools help to build a greater perspective on our stakeholder’s attitudes and behaviours to change. 

In some individuals, signs of engagement or resistance can be obvious, whereas others may show no sign of either. Identifying these behaviours sooner rather than later can have a huge impact on the success of a change. That’s why the more information we have, the quicker we can ease future resistance when it arises.

Dealing with a resistant team – 5 key strategies

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with a resistant team – what might work for one employee may prove useless for another. The flip side is that there are many approaches for dealing with those who are resistant to change.

1. Expect resistance

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Regardless of the benefits of change, there will always be at least one individual who struggles to be onboard. Change management is more than just managing people during change – it’s about working with others, providing support and guidance to ensure the change is embedded into a company’s culture.

2. Identify those resisting change

The team members resisting change are not always in plain sight – especially in large teams. Much like a fire, change resistance needs to be resolved quickly before it can spread through the rest of your team. There are several tools that can help you identify who is likely to resist or enable change, such as culture mapping. A culture map provides a visualisation of your company’s culture, values and behaviours. It works in 3 steps:

  1. Identify the subcultures of your organisation.
  2. Hold group interviews in order to confirm whether resistance is intentional or stem from management.
  3. Organise the information collected to sum up the behaviours, enablers, resistors and outcomes.

The information gathered can help you identify the sources of resistance. For example, it could be a lack of education from management or team leaders. From there you can communicate between groups to ensure this is improved, in order for improved results.

3. Establish strong communication

Every team needs strong communication in order to be successful – regardless of whether they’re a business or a football team. While team members may be unsure or against change, it’s up to management to communicate the need for change and the impact it can have. Not only does effective communication educate stakeholders about change, it can also reassure any doubts they may have.

Communication is not just about talking, but also about listening. Employees appreciate being heard and are free to offer suggestions and feedback that can improve future change processes. Open-ended communication channels are essential in building relationships amongst teams.

4. Set achievable targets

Change within an organisation already offers challenges, so why take things one step further? Rome wasn’t built in a day and if your employees struggle to meet expectations to change processes, they are more likely to show resistance. Think about it – if an employee is already anxious about change, how does making their job more difficult gonna give them a positive perception?

Setting achievable goals, designed for short term success always helps you ease employees through the change with positive reinforcement. 

5. Ensure attitudes to change stick

While installing change into your company’s culture might prove straightforward, keeping it in place is another challenge. It may not take long for old habits to slip back in – especially if the change is proving difficult. Various tools such as meetings, interviews and feedback can be a sufficient way to provide your team with a morale boost.

Nobody wants to see a break in the foundations they’ve laid. This is when you need to communicate your support and understanding to your team. Identify those who may be struggling and invest time by offering support. A great leader understands the individual needs of each team member, interacting with them in a way that influences and inspires.

In conclusion

It could be argued that change management is just as much about people as the change itself. Though dealing with a resistant team can be challenging, there is always a solution for easing change resistance. As individuals, we have certain reactions to change, but as a group we are able to conquer it, providing both personal and organizational growth!

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels