How to cope with resistance to change?

Working in a company or busy with being self-employed, we all face at least at one point the need, the urge and/or the will to change.

  • Change our own behavior in order to work better, 
  • change our mindset to go next level, 
  • change our company culture to be able to grow, 
  • change work methods to speed up some procedures
  • change teams in order to create a better performing business

As a manager or a company owner running your business, we know change is needed from time to time. We also do know that change is not always simple and easily implemented: it takes time, discussion, good communication, self-reflection, energy.. and above all, the willingness to change.

But what to do when lacking this willingness?

How to deal with people too busy to change?

How to make clear that change is truly needed?

How to motivate people to step into the change mindset?

How to cope with true resistance to change? 

Let’s dive into some insights and concrete tips! 

The people side of change.

First of all, people always want and need to be seen and valued for who they are. Therefor it is key to keep focus not only on the organizational side of the change, but also on the people side of change.e:

  • by adapting the change message according to your target audience
  • by explaining the message from the people’s point of view instead of the company’s view
  • by leading by example and showing true respect for your employees
  • by recognizing what is not going well, showing some honesty and gaining trust
  • by working with external experts who can help to explain the change in an objective way

Turn negative emotions into positive ones.

Secondly, negative emotions connected to change are almost inevitable, but can be turned into positive ones:

-     when you understand the needs of the person in front of you through deep conversations where you listen to their thoughts and values, instead of directly selling them the idea

-     when you break the discussion in some smaller groups where people can be a real part of the change and experience the feeling of being heard

-    when you give your people opportunities to release stress and/or offer a (digital) place where they can release/express/let go of their stress

-  when you allow your people some time to reflect. Forcing them to change is not the solution

The speed of change.

Thirdly, an immediate acceptance of the requested changes cannot be enforced and won’t be realized at the same time for everyone inside the company. The speed of change will always be different for everyone, but can definitely be better facilitated and speeded up 

  • by looking for and underlining the positive elements of change. Those which give your people confidence and comfort: “we can do this”
  • by pointing out specific ambassadors who are able to convince their peers and preferably include 
  • by creating possibilities for people to participate in the decision making 
  • by splitting up the change progress in smaller goals which are easier to be achieved and better visible for everyone
  • by organizing some breaks to evaluate together the change already made in order to speed up afterwards

How to cope with people who keep resisting?

At last remains the challenge on what to do and how to work with people who continue to resist any change despite all the above efforts.

Continuously educate and train people in a strong change mindset right from the start when entering the company is of course the best way to prevent them from change resistance. 

However, when there was no possibility to do so, you can still

  • design a custom made approach for them, implementing regular diagnostic assessment and a strong support structure, for instance through sessions with peers who are ready for change
  • make the WIIFM (what is in for me) message very clear by emphasizing the positive outcome of the requested changes in order to prevent a fall back. Create a culture of recognition and rewards for those who are eager to change
  • communicate the consequences for the whole team of the recalcitrant behavior in order to enforce a stronger team spirit
  • avoid the creation of a toxic environment by focusing on the positive effects and the other peers who are joining effortless the change challenges. 

And finally, spread the joy!

Because the key to a successful change and change mindset is JOY.

Make sure that change can be considered as FUN. As a positive challenge full of learning and growth possibilities. 

Anchor the change and change mindset as necessary and joyful and look at it as a playground where opportunities to proceed, speed up, grow, learn and perform are various and multiple.

Create this mindset preferably right from the beginning, when starting a new company and/or hiring new people: Everything is possible when you are willing to change.