Resistance to change – and how to help people through it

Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

With a group of people highly vested in identifying the problem(s) you’ve collectively identified what the problem is with some sharp facilitation skills and key problem solving tricks. You’ve identified data that supports your theory of what the problem is now solving it should be easy right? Simply execute the solution into the workplace and WHAM! Problem solved… but wait….

It wasn’t quite that simple was it?

What did you forget? Ahhhh.. Resistance to change maybe? But why would people resist something that would fix something you ask? Good question. Complicated response. Abbreviated response follows.

Not everyone thought the “thing” was broken so not everyone bought into the solution. Your team did but that was a small sampling of maybe 1800 people or maybe even 20? The effort it takes for people to make a change to how they are doing something is enormous. Do not underestimate it. Don’t believe that simply because it make sense, data says the change will make things better that people will be willing to do it. They won’t. It is still a change and change is difficult for most people even under the very best of circumstances. We could write books on the subject of change and books have been written but here is a quick cheat sheet to get you started.

Solutions by definition mean something has to change and people sometimes resist change, even good change. Change causes fear, fear causes resistance. What now? The simple solution or solutions you came up with may be simple but they are not easy.

Why logic and data will not move change forward and why people are not motivated to change based on these things

Remembering these few points will help when you enter into a situation where you have been asked to help a person, team or organization go through a change or solve a problem:

  1. People in the organization achieved their level of success doing things exactly the way they have done them in the past. Until they “feel” an impetus to change, they won’t. They must come to the conclusion that they need to change on their own or perhaps encouraged by their manager. If this doesn’t happen sometimes someone from the outside that has no bias at all can talk about the feelings someone has about what will happen if a change takes place. Once everything is in the open, a meaningful conversation can take place to ensure those fears are dealt with because fear really is False Evidence Appearing Real but it is very real for the person experiencing it. There must also be something real about the change that must appeal to the person – something they can relate to, something in it for them.

POINT: Change is not easy for everyone and not everyone thinks problems need to be solved.  It is critical to understand this. You must help people through the transition.

  1. Just because the process or change makes logical sense and the data supports that it will be more effective, and people nod their heads and say yes, they still won’t change. Empirical and factual data can sometimes make people feel embarrassed. There are times when data is not very helpful but it’s good to gather it and share it privately with the people who ask to see it. Why is this the case? Here are some possibilities to consider, maybe you’ve felt the same way:
  • People in the organization would have to admit to themselves and possibly to others that they were there when things went awry.
  • Solutions that once solved problems no longer do
  • Something has to change or things will get worse, or worse stay the same

None of these points are comfortable for anyone. Consider this when approaching the subject that a system has to change. People are the system. Focus on the solutions and focus on the people to help them through the changes that have to happen.

Understanding these points will also help you become more effective in helping people through change:

  • They know how to solve the problem, they created it and they know exactly what to do to solve it
  • It may have taken someone else to say exactly what they’ve been saying all along. Think how that might feel.
  • Tread lightly and respect this. They know it better then you do. Be respectful.

Your role is to coach and facilitate the conversation and if very lucky, help bring about a positive change to their workplace. Respect your role, their knowledge and contribution.

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