Strategies For Overcoming Opposition To Organizational Change

Published: 25th June 2010
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It is human nature to reject what we picture as different. Change demands that we work to learn a new set of principles, when the old rules may have suited us just fine. In reality, neither our individual nor professional lives will forever be aligned with what we perceive to be comfortable. In other words, we are not the center of universe and the world does not rotate around our comfort levels. Conditions outside of our control will take place that force us to adapt to new policies, new arrangements, and new sets of laws. In the very best positions our participation will be worthy and our opinions will be sought giving us the opportunity to create the means that justify the end.
Individuals demonstrate their dedication to change through their deeds and actions. Strong managers solicit staff participation to build buy-in and to make sure that the affects of the proposed modifications are vetted to avoid system breakdowns. Non-management employees can show their buy-in by preparing themselves about the process, seeking ways to build consensus, giving and receiving feedback, and communicating their concerns to peers and management constructively.
Many hypotheses try to explain why employees reject change even when it is apparent that change is needed for an organization's endurance. Resistance to change can be averted via:
Commitment: From the CEO to the janitor, each employee must be committed to the change plan. That commitment begins at the top; hence the organization's leaders must be particularly attuned to successful execution. One naysayer on the leadership team can destroy the entire process.
A change mandate: Change can not be a choice. With gentle respect it must be made clear that change is not an option, it is a requisite.
Input: Anyone who will be affected by the impending changes must be given the opportunity to voice his or her view in a respectful and collegial setting.
Accountability: Every individual affected by the change program must be held responsible for accomplishing his or her individual change activity. Not fulfilling that responsibility must carry consequences.
Rewards and celebration: Successful execution should be recognized via compensation and/or acknowledgement. The organization as a whole should commemorate the successful implementation of the change program as well.
Evaluation: Analyzing the success of the implementation at planned intervals is a strategic decision planned to gauge success over time and make corrections for unexpected consequences.

Overlooking any one of the points above quashes the chance of successfully fulfilling a change program.

When change happens, the relationship ("personal compact") between employers and employees suffer. This "personal compact" has three prongs - formal, social, and psychological.
The formal compact: Captures fundamental tasks and performance requirements as defined by company documents such as job descriptions, employment contracts, and performance understandings.
The psychological compact: Incorporates feelings such as trust and dependence between employee and employer, which is the foundation of an employee's personal dedication to personal and company objectives.
The social compact: Includes employees' perceptions about the culture of the organization and their chances for success.

Change destabilizes the cornerstone upon which the employer/employee relationship ("personal compact") is established. It is this uncomfortable shift in organizational kinetics (social, formal and psychological) that causes resistance to change, not just the launch of new ideas or other ways of conducting business.

Once the change program is announced, many employees will employ tactics to protect themselves, their turf, and ultimately their spot in the system.
Argumentative: Some employees will aggressively dispute the requisite for change. This is a time destroyer, which precludes critical objectives from being met. Every person who facilitates the change process must work diligently to shape consensus. The employee must be reassured that every idea is worthy of consideration. Should an exchange deteriorate into broad proclamations such as, "I just don't like it", "This will never work", or "This is a waste of time" the speaker must be challenged. Simply ask the speaker to explain why he or she feels the way they do and call for for three or four suggestions for making the process work.
Avoidance: Some directors and members of the leadership team will avoid change by subtlety refusing to commit to the process. Frequently these leaders will undermine the change effort by being unavailable for meetings, denying resources, or withholding feedback. "The leadership" is a particularly problematical foe, because change efforts often call for the use of resources managed by the leadership, such as time and money. Without these resources change efforts are likely to perish. Accountability with consequences is the fundamental means for assuring leadership involvement.
Distraction: Many employees and organizational leaders search for personal or professional diversions during the change process that will ultimately hinder the effort. A oblivious individual can undermine the change effort by not being present physically or mentally when his or her critical input is necessary. Not being mindful of change produces an unnecessarily troublesome experience for every member of the team. Such carelessness calls to mind the wasted energy expended when one runs against the wind. Change efforts offer an opportunity for every one affected to secure a new spot in the organization or make a determination to look for a better fit elsewhere.

Everyone who will be affected by the change process must participate in its carrying out, which starts with soliciting ideas and comment in the earliest planning stages.

Once identified, there are several strategies that can be used to overcome opposition to change within the organization. In order to maintain stability, all individuals must be treated with respect as they may have valuable knowledge to add and doing anything less may create even more resistance. At all stages of the change process, it is advisable to seek areas for agreement. Afterwards these commonalities can be leveraged to encourage the opposition to join the team. It is likewise essential to acknowledge and fully understand the nature of the resistance. This feedback will form the basis for strategies to deal with that resistance. When the majority of the organization is on board it is certainly worthwhile to hear and address the fears of a few holdouts, which perpetuates the goal of maximum buy-in. Finally, resistance can be overcome by making sure that the change effort is communicated effectively in a multi-dimensional format. Adult learning theory supports the need to propagate messages that are seen, heard, and felt. By looking for consensus, recognizing feedback, and communicating effectively, organizations can meet opposition successfully. Nevertheless, there will be people who cannot function in a changed system. These men and women will always feel that the relationship ("personal compact") with the employer has been broken.

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Health Care Equities

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