Overcome the Roadblocks of Employee Resistance

Overcome the Roadblocks of Employee Resistance

Employee suggestion programs and employee involvement programs often — ultimately — fail because of a simple human trait: Resistance to change.

Management and employees can subtly resist participating in a suggestion and employee involvement program because many people almost automatically resist change. In fact, some studies indicate only 30 percent of changes attempted in business and organizations succeed.

Re-engineering, mergers, quality improvement — even implementation of new software programs — can have a small hope of immediate success. Resistance is the primary reason for the low success rate of attempts at change.

“People usually have resistance for good reasons… to protect themselves,” explained Rick Maurer, author of “Beyond the Wall of Resistance.”

Important: Don’t Fight it. “Resistance is not the problem,” said Maurer. “The problem is how we react to it. If you try to ‘overcome’ resistance, you’re saying, ‘Your resistance has no value… my way is the right way.’ Instead, transform, explore, embrace the resistance.”

“Resistance is a natural part of change. When resistance occurs, we have a choice: We can fight it and risk building a wall between others and ourselves, or we can transform its force into support,” advised Maurer.

Oftentimes, resistance exists for good reasons. “It’s like traction on ice,” Maurer explained. “That traction is resistance, and it keeps a car in control. Resistance keeps our ideas under control. So if you’re serious about something, take the resistance seriously.”

We commonly respond to resistance by using power, applying the force of reason, ignoring it, manipulating or getting rid of those who oppose change, make deals, or play off relationships.

When we react too strongly, we only stiffen resistance and increase the likelihood of problems, according to Maurer. Change succeeds when we remain clearly focused and calm, take the time to understand the reasons behind the resistance, and look for common ground.

Being able to see another’s point of view and embrace some part of that position without compromising the entire change effort will improve your chances of success, said Maurer.

What to Do: Stay open. Ask questions. Be willing to hear what others have to say. Use strategies to get resisters to talk. “Stay relaxed,” advised Maurer. “If you get defensive, you’ll blow it.”

Two Ways to Begin Overcoming Resistance

1. Have everyone write down their concerns and turn them in anonymously. Then sit down together and discuss them, one by one.

2. Have a suggestion program and encourage employees to give their ideas in writing or by e-mail directly to their supervisors.

“Smaller employers have a great advantage here,” said Maurer. “You have more contact with employees, more chance to build relationships. It ought to be easier to get resistance and opposition up on the table.”

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