As an independent consultant, you will often find yourself helping client companies manage change.
It makes sense then, to ensure you know something about change management and especially how to help clients face and embrace change resistance (which should be embraced, as it’s actually an opportunity rather than a threat).
The first step in handling change resistance is to know what brings it about. The following paragraphs should help you get your head around the three key reasons for change resistance and therefore, to explain them to clients during change management preparations.
The Three Types of Change Resistance
There is any number of reasons why people resist change within their organisations. However, these reasons can be loosely grouped into three main types of change resistance, depending on whether the reasons are personal, emotional, or founded in logic and rationalisation.
1. I Don’t Get It
Let’s look first at rational change resistance. This comes about when people can’t comprehend how or why change will lead to improvement. Managers and employees alike may question one or more aspects of the change, such as:
- The time and effort required to learn and adjust to new ways of working
- The economic advantages of the change
- The business benefits of change
- Feasibility of the proposed change or solution
If concerns about these issues are not satisfactorily addressed, change resistance is a likely outcome. Such uncertainties can be assuaged by thoroughly communicating the how, what, and why of change and by highlighting the benefits. One way your clients might do this is to present examples (to managers and employees) of how other companies have gained from similar implementations.
2. I Don’t Like It
Emotional change resistance results from personal concerns. Anxiety arises when people feel threatened by change, especially if the perceived threat relates to job security, work/life balance or other factors related to their professional, personal, and family lives. Reasons for emotional change resistance can include:
- Fear of the unknown
- Concern that jobs will be lost
- Worries about new working arrangements (hours, shifts, changes in teams, and other changes of similar nature)
Again, communication is the key to preventing emotional change resistance. Your clients must be honest and open about how changes will impact individual employees. If possible, a channel should be provided through which people can discuss personal concerns in confidence, either with their line managers or a human resources specialist.
3. I Don’t Like You
Personal change resistance relates to the degree of trust between employees and their managers, senior leaders, and/or the change agents and champions who will drive implementation. If the workforce doesn’t trust the management team or its motives for change, resistance is almost a certainty.
Your clients can prevent trust issues from standing in the way of successful change, but only if leaders are prepared to give employees a voice and involve them in the project from the outset. This will help people to feel that they have some control over the change.
Letting the workforce inside the project can also reduce any perception that hidden agendas exist. It’s also important to make sure that change agents are chosen at least in part, for their positions of trust among the workforce and management teams.
Helping Your Clients to Address Change Resistance
As part of your consulting service portfolio, you can help to ensure change resistance is met in a positive manner by senior leaders. First you should help them understand the three types of change resistance.
You might also offer a coaching service, helping leaders learn how to address each type of change resistance. You could even assist in creating change management plans which might prevent, or at least minimise the impact of rational, personal, or emotional change resistance.
It’s easy to perceive change resistance as a negative aspect of consulting and project management, but in reality it’s not so bad.
By tackling change resistance in a smart way, clients can actually strengthen solutions and derive better project outcomes. By helping them to do so, you too can benefit from change resistance, making it something to embrace and face as part of the service you provide.
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