test 33 
Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change in the Workplace
Skip to content

Recruiting & Hiring

Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change in the Workplace

One Minute Takeaway

  • 70% of change programs fail because of employee resistance.
  • Common sources of resistance are fear, misunderstanding and expectations.
  • Strategies for overcoming resistance include education, training, listening, timing and rewards.

We’ve all heard the saying that “Change is always good.,” right? Wrong. But when it comes to business, does everyone see change in that same way?

Change is a constant at every organization, but employees have quickly become the number one opponents of change. There are several different reasons why employees have learned to resist change, but the primary reason is the bad management of change in the workplace.

Let’s take a look at what fuels this change resistance and how you can not only combat it, but create change acceptance.

What Drives Change Resistance

To understand how to overcome resistance to change in the workplace, you have to understand the basic tenets of employee resistance. Unfortunately, most employees won’t respond to change with happiness and glee. Let’s face it: people prefer stability and comfort over change in both their personal and professional lives. Though it’s much easier to live inside the comfort of normal day-to-day life, change happens and is always going to be something that needs to be handled. Over the past few years, change has become a norm in the business world. Companies that can manage change with ease will have the upper hand over their competition.

Top Reasons for Resistance to Change

Although change management decisions are normally made at the C-level, it’s still very important to have the rest of the employees buy in to the change.

70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, in large part due to employee resistance, according to McKinsey.

Having employees who are opposed to change from the start is a major setback and one that needs to be dealt with carefully in order to be successful with the change management. It’s important to understand that change resistance is not generally the result of the actions of bad-faith employees. Instead it stems from five key areas.

Job Loss

Job loss is a major reason that employees resist change in the workplace. In any business, there are constantly going to be things moving and changing, whether it is due to the need for more efficiency, better turnaround times or the need for employees to work smarter. With all these comes the opportunity for the company to downsize or create new jobs, and this is where the fear of job loss comes into play.

Poor Communication and Engagement

Communication solves all ills. But a lack of it creates more of them.

Poor communication is another crucial reason employees oppose change. How the change process is communicated to the employees is very important because it can “direct” their ideas of change acceptance and their willingness to work toward the success of the change.

The best way to successfully implement an organizational transformation at your company is with a change management plan.

The change management plan should contain all of the details that will facilitate the change process:

  • What needs to be changed
  • How it needs to be changed
  • What success would look like

If these are not part of the change management plan, or if they are but are communicated poorly, then resistance should be expected. Employees need to understand why there is a need for change, because if they are just told that what they have been used to for a long time is going to be completely renovated, with that will be much backlash.

Lack of Trust

Trust is a vital tool to have when running a successful business. In organizations where there is a lot of trust in management, there is lower resistance to change. Mutual mistrust between management and employees will lead to the company going into a downward spiral, so trust is a must.

The Unknown

If companies are constantly experiencing times where the future is unknown, there is also a good possibility that employees won’t respond to change well. When the thought of change is brought up, it would come as a surprise, leading to employees being caught off guard, which makes the situation much worse.

Poor Timing

It’s not always the actual act of change that causes pushback, sometimes it’s the way that change is implemented. Providing everyone with a clearly defined schedule of what’s going to happen and when can help alleviate some concerns that may have otherwise been a reason for resistance.

What are Strategies for Overcoming Resistance to Change?

It is a cliche but it’s true: Change doesn’t happen overnight. And that includes changing the thoughts and actions of employees who are putting up change resistance.

Innovation and improvement are two things that are occurring on a daily basis. With new ideas and suggestions, there are always ways to improve as a company whether it be changing the outlook on an assignment, or changing the way the office dynamic is on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of what it is, there are always ways to improve through change.

To alleviate employee concerns around change, management teams may need to take a multi-pronged approach to overcome employee resistance.

1. Overcome opposition

Regardless of how well companies manage a change, there is always going to be resistance. Companies should engage those who are opposed to change. By doing this, they can actively see what their concerns are and possibly alleviate the problem in a timely manner. By allowing employees time to give their input, it assures them that they are part of an organization that actually cares about its employees.
Communicating both early and often is necessary when trying to convey anything to employees. There should be a constant conversation between the C-Suite and the general employees on what is happening day to day, and fwhat the future plans are. The best piece of advice that a company can take in this regard is to be truthful, straightforward, and timely with big changes in the workplace.

2. Offer an Explanation

An explanation for why change is needed is always a good idea. By helping employees better understand why a change is important for the company, it’s easier to get them on board with the change. It can also encourage them to become a change advocate. With this, an explanation of “what’s in it for me?” helps employees see the big picture and the benefits of the change, instead of only giving them a narrow view of what is to happen in the near future.

3. Effectively Engage Employees

Listen, listen, listen. That’s where engagement starts.

If there is another piece of advice that a company should take, it’s to receive and respond to feedback that is provided by the employees. They are the ones making sure that all the clients are happy and that all the work gets done, so keeping them in the loop is vital.

Ask employees probing questions:

  • Is the change working?
  • What can we do to make it work better?
  • Do employees have any questions or concerns?

These are all great questions to ask, but if feedback is going to be collected, it actually needs to be read and utilized.

Leveraging an employee engagement survey is a great first step. The answers employee’s provide can be used to change  plans accordingly and show employees that their ideas and concerns are being heard.

Understanding that no two employees are the same is another important tactic to use when trying to understand employee concern. Being able to realize that there are going to be many different reasons for opposition depending on the person is pertinent, because then managers can tailor ways to work out these problems.

4. Implement Change in Several Stages

Change doesn’t happen all at once. Companies should:

  1.  Prepare for the change
  2. Take action on the change and make a plan for managing the change

Support the change and assure that all is going as planned

5. Communicate Change Effectively

The best way that you as an employer can communicate change is to explicitly tell employees what is going on. Using a blend of formal and informal communication allows you to ensure that all employees receive the news about the change in some way or another.

Depending on the size of the company and the type of change, a communication plan can be rolled out in a number of different ways—emails, company meetings, small group reviews, one-on-ones or a combination of each channel.

You may also decide to gather together inspirational leaders and influencers from every department to build a team of Change Champions. These respected team members can help make the changes feel more accessible and more manageable while providing “in the trenches” leadership around what’s new and how to enact each change item.

Handle Employee Resistance in Every Aspect

Making change can be daunting, but don’t let fear stand in the way of progress. To ensure a successful transition, take time to plan your approach and configure support systems. People naturally push back against unfamiliarity, so it’s important for management teams to treat resistance with an open mindset and creative solutions.

Companies of all types constantly experience change because as industries grow, businesses have to evolve. A fully unified HCM technology solution can help you navigate these changes. Reach out to Paycor today to learn how HR software can help change management and learn about the support you’ll get from Paycor team members along the way.