Overcoming resistance

Virtually any type of organizational change involves role transitions of some type. In light of role transitions, it is almost natural for employees to resist major changes in the workplace environment. Some contend that resistance to change is “natural”; they contend that this resistance is instinctive; that humans have a desire for perpetual stability.

Many processes recognize that resistance. Individual interviews provide an environment where individual stories can be heard in a safe environment. Whole Person Process Facilitation can be used in focus groups with an appreciative inquiry and vision based diagnosis approach to identify resources the organization already possesses that are currently utilized, under-utilized, or have been previously unrecognized.

Open communication, honouring tradition, stakeholders feeling heard, and attending to grief are all important components of organizational change, and drastically reduce resistance. In any change process, resistance can arise at any given moment. During the change process tough decisions have to be made and communicated. New possibilities and new priorities are intimidating to employees – the ones who most often have to live with the effects of these decisions. The simple announcement of changes in an organization can bring forth feelings of apprehension, insecurity and fear – leading to stress.

Reducing resistance includes giving voice and paying attention to grief work; building capacity for change into the integration project plans and management approach; communicating decisions as early in the process as possible; not underestimating the emotional impact on the people involved (including senior management), dealing with the “me” issues as early as possible; treating the past with respect while speaking frequently about the new opportunities and challenges that call for new responses in a positive manner; allowing time for healing. Many theorists believe that the main reason organizational changes fail is because management does not focus on the endings that are a natural consequence of any change.

About the author
Since the early 1980s, Judith Richardson, M.A., has been pioneering in the fields of sustainable leadership, essential partnership, international teamwork, educational renewal, creating a customer service culture and workplace diversity. Featured in ICFAI University’s Executive Reference on Diversity Management, author of Four Keys to Engaging Leadership, and Keynote at International Conferences, Judith was nominated for International Coach of the Year 2003, and works with International Organizational Development across North America, Europe, Jamaica, Denmark, Sweden, Israel and Russia. ( Tel: (902) 434-6695.