19 Change Management Activities to Overcome Employee Pushback

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    Home / Growth / 19 Change Management Activities to Overcome Employee Pushback

    As a child, I had to move a lot.

    And every time we had to leave there was this unpleasant feeling. I was a big emo teen during my teenage years, I had a lot to say about the constant moving around.

    But the thing is, every time we moved to a different place, everything was better.

     It was a better neighborhood, a better house, and better people. And by the time we moved the second time, I was already aware this was the deal. Then why did I push back so much, you ask?

    No one likes change.

    You think you like change? You like the benefits of it.

    Employee pushback is precisely like that. Trust me, even managers hate it. But if you are the manager, it is your responsibility to understand the change and help your coworkers see its benefits.

    But how do I do that?

    I got you. Today let’s talk about 19 activities you can utilize to fight back employee pushback.

    What is resistance to change and why does it occur?

    Humans are creatures of habit.

    There is an innate fear of changing something that has been instilled in their routine for so long, which can make it very difficult to maintain and achieve success with new habits.

    Even when people know that change is necessary, it can be hard to make changes in your organization. 

    This is because self-initiated personal change follows a top-down approach-- meaning that resistance will occur whenever someone has no choice but to undergo the transformation process.

    Let’s take the installation of new software in an organization as an example.

    As an employee, you're comfortable with the existing software and don't necessarily see the need for a new one.

    What you do realize is that learning the basic functions of the new one will take time.

    You may be afraid that the change may hurt your job performance, whether consciously or unconsciously. Trust me, you don’t want to do that.

    Too often, the emphasis is placed on what can be lost rather than what could be achieved.

    Who resists change?

    Contrary to popular belief, change does not just affect low-level employees. Everyone in a company, from maintenance to senior management, is affected by change. 

    Interestingly, intelligence has little to do with resistance. Even the most intelligent among us cannot escape the fear of upcoming changes.

    The Benefits of Resistance to Change

    Resistance is often seen as bad, but it can actually be beneficial for the management! 

    For example, employee resistance to a company's new initiatives may force executives and managers to pick their battles wisely. In turn, this ensures that resources are not wasted on ideas or projects that don’t have a good ROI.

    Since your employees are already hypercritical of change, there’ll be no room for BS!

    It also encourages organization and communication. Management must identify the areas of resistance and create a plan to adequately address them. And that is good news when you know that 29% of employees think poor communication is what fails change management.

    Managing and Overcoming Resistance to Change in the Workplace

    Change is inevitable, but the natural reaction to it can be very uncomfortable. 

    By understanding why people resist change and how they do so, you'll have a better chance of accomplishing your goals. Resistance is just another obstacle that you will need to overcome in order to facilitate progress and ensure success in your organization.

    Let’s now take a look at 4 major reasons why employees resist change.

    4 Reasons Why Employees Resist Change

    You must first understand the reason for change resistance before you can overcome it.

    Reason 1: Fear and Low Tolerance

    A lot of employees don’t like change because they are afraid. 

    They are scared that they will not have enough time to learn the new skills required of them, which makes them feel insecure.

    They are also afraid of looking incompetent in front of their coworkers due to a lack of time to adapt. The truth is, while some relationships and activities may be lost as a result of adapting to changes, others may be established as well.

    If a person's tolerance for change is low, they may keep actively rejecting change for reasons they don't understand themselves, most of which are commonly rooted in fear of failure.

    Reason 2: Self-Interest

    Change is always difficult to accept, and some people may resist them at all costs. 

    They believe that the change in any way whatsoever will threaten their power - whether it be major decision-making power or ability to influence others on a team. Others may see one change as an indication of more possible changes coming down the line which would pose a threat to their current situation.

    And if someone feels that a change would threaten their job, they are more inclined to reject it. 

    Keep in mind: Any effort to change things that your coworkers see as posing a danger to their existing status will be met with resistance.

    Reason 3: Lack of Trust

    Employees are more likely to resist change if there has already been a lack of trust between the management and employees. 

    While establishing a high degree of trust between employees and managers is a rather challenging task, managers must keep trying hard to improve these relationships.

    If there is a lack of trust, employees are less inclined to "buy in" to important changes.

    Managers must quickly clarify any misconceptions to prevent resistance from spreading throughout the company.

    Reason 4: Poor Communication

    It's critical to consider how the change is communicated to employees. Employees will likely reject a change if it isn't shared in its entirety, or if it is only told to a small number of people. 

    Remember: Employees' reactions are influenced by how the change is presented.

    Resistance should be expected if a manager cannot describe the process of what exactly needs to be changed, how the changes will be executed, and how the changes will make things better. 

    When we think about change, it's natural to be afraid. 

    Employees fear being deprived of relationships with co-workers and the activities they participate in at work each day as well as losing their jobs.

    But why?

    Sometimes people don't trust that changes are worth what is being given up or whether a manager knows what they are doing; this can lead them into resisting any new changes that will inevitably occur.

    As you probably realize, it's very important for managers to directly and fully address resistance when implementing changes within an organization. 

    By building trust among your team members and communicating clearly how you plan on making these organizational adjustments, those who might initially resist will have much more confidence heading forward, knowing that everything has been thoughtfully planned out beforehand.

    Then, what can you do about all this?

    What is a change management activity?

    A change management activity is a course of action recommended to take during times of change, in the face of resistance, or just to make sure the change is being implemented successfully.

    These change management activities can range from adopting new tools, starting training programs, and planning meetings to changing a standpoint or delving into better communication; all for the sake of successful change management.

    Why do you need change management activities?

    Change is a big word.

    But you have the ability to show your employees that what change means isn’t as big as the word itself.

    And to do that, you need change management activities. Because they

    • Create a neutral environment for your employees to comprehend what is going on,
    • Provide a better point of view for you and your co-workers to understand one another better,
    • Drive better and faster success consequently.

    So let’s take a look at some change management activities.

    19 Change Management Activities to Overcome Pushback

    1- Listen First, Talk Second

    Communication is the first step in overcoming resistance to change. 

    I'm pretty sure that you perfectly understand that communication is crucial, but it's even more important when you're trying to implement a major initiative like this one! 

    Allowing your employees an opportunity to speak their minds can help ease some of the dissatisfaction they might have with what's going on right now - and who knows? They may just come up with some great ideas for how you could make things better without any big changes happening at all, at least for now.

    2- Communicate the Reasons for Change

    Communicating a change to an employee can be difficult. 

    It's important that you emphasize why the change is needed and what it means for them personally, while also sharing how they will go about implementing this new plan. 

    The more information your employees have on these topics, the less likely they are to resist any changes or become complacent in their work environment.

    3- Be Honest

    The way you explain the change has a big influence on how much resistance you'll face. Your conviction will spread if you honestly and eagerly express the reasons for change. Keep in mind that any hesitation will jeopardize the operation.

    4- It’s all about Employees

    Change is only possible if your employees are on board, so make sure changes are approached in terms of the employees.

    If you are implementing a new software system in your company, make sure the changes happen from an employee-centric perspective rather than focusing on the technical aspects of it all. The user experience should be leading—not just what this app can do.

    5- Fight Resistance with Culture

    One way to overcome resistance is by putting more focus on culture. Naturally, there will always be someone who will resist change no matter what you do.

    Don’t worry about them, go and train a few natural leaders first. This will give them an opportunity to serve as positive role models for their peers while also influencing them with their own thoughts about new ideas you're introducing into the workplace environment. 

    This has a ripple effect because when one person changes their mind, it influences the opinion of everybody else around them too!

    6- Show them the Data

    While most resistance to change is emotional rather than intellectual, using some hard facts as a backup strategy might be useful.

    Allow your employees to view the data.

    This is an excellent approach to demonstrate both openness and the need for improvement.

    7- Expect Resistance

    It's unrealistic to expect that every change you make would be completely welcomed, accepted, and supported by your whole team.

    That’s why it’s important to prepare a strategy for dealing with resistance from employees when implementing new changes in the workplace. 

    This can include positive reinforcement as well as consequences that are clearly stated and understood among all staff members beforehand.

    8- Generational Prejudices

    Change requires successful collaboration, and getting different generations to work well together is extremely difficult especially if they vary greatly about the way they work.

    Management may aid by actively looking for occasions where two employees are at conflict and intervening when they arise to help them reach understanding and compromise, therefore promoting positive organizational behavior.

    Have this in mind when recruiting employees and recruit those that support the company culture you want to build.

    9- Encourage Community Spirit 

    Teams perform better together when they know each other on a more personal level.

    Create non-work-related opportunities for your employees to interact with each other in order to develop a strong business culture with good organizational behavior and foster deeper connections amongst employees.

    Regardless of age or professional position, happy hours, company-sponsored events, group trips, and clubs are excellent methods to bring people together. 

    10- Involve Executive Leadership

    You won't be able to execute change successfully until you get buy-in from all levels of the organization. 

    Your employees take their cue from the executive team, and if they don't follow the change management strategy, it's very likely that your organization's behavior will change as well.

    Encourage your company's executives to lead by example, and everyone else will follow.

    11- Do Change Right the First Time

    Failed attempts to change aspects of your organization's behavior will have a negative impact on how future initiatives are seen by employees.

    If you're going to make a change, be sure you're doing everything you can to make it a success.

    Many businesses struggle to execute change successfully because they tend to overload their staff with work and expect near-instant results. 

    Change management is based on one simple fact: it takes time.

    Break the project down into stages and walk your staff through each one to ensure that adaptations are taking place as planned to support the next step of change.

    12- Use the Right Technology

    According to the open-systems approach theory of organizational behavior, an organization's environment has an influence on it because it exchanges information, energy, or resources.

    Workplaces that are proactive, responsive, and intuitive are the most effective.

    Technology can really help you bridge the gap between employees and departments and lead the way to healthy organizational behavior with right customization, implementation, training, and support.

    13- Address the social aspects of change

    Employees may be used to long-standing traditions and systems, such as reporting to a certain person or documenting their work in a specific way.

    When change begins to occur, people may view the shift as a danger to their way of work.

    Others could be worried about losing important workplace relationships or having to report to a new supervisor.

    To alleviate anxiety, keep these issues in mind and consider giving new mentorship or support opportunities.

    14- Identify any existing trust issues and be transparent

    While change might affect employees' trust in management, any existing trust-related issues will be amplified.

    Those who don't trust management are more likely to be suspicious of change and hence resistant to it.

    That is why, even if trust has been lost, it is critical to be completely honest during the transition so that employees can start to build trust in management.

    15- Communicate the logic 

    Some changes may appear to be "progress for the sake of progress" to people who are not in management positions.

    They're more inclined to dismiss a change as a new tedious process or a power play by the management if they don't know why it's needed or how it could increase their productivity.

    Always be open about why the change is taking place, and make any relevant data available to your staff.

    16- Be mindful of people’s skill gaps

    People don't always have the necessary skills to deal with new processes. This is especially true in the case of technological changes.

    Pay attention to employees' concerns about their ability to do their tasks, rather than treating their resistance as pure aversion.

    It's possible that further training or new equipment will be required.

    17- Have a plan for those who will be negatively affected

    If roles are removed or rearranged, change will always leave someone in the dark. If not handled properly, any changes to the org chart may cause dissatisfaction and, in the worst-case scenario, a staff exodus.

    The change management team must anticipate resistance from those who will be affected by the change, and then build a strategic transition plan for those who will be leaving or taking up new positions.

    18- Allow all members of the team to participate

    People are often confused and anxious when change takes place. Giving them some control or influence over the situation might help to reduce their fear and resistance to change.

    Look for methods to get your staff on board with the change, such as allowing them to offer input or make small choices about how the change will be implemented in their department.

    19- Prepare to deal with conflict

    It's definitely well worth the effort to organize team-building activities since strong team spirit and teamwork will help make the shift more manageable. 

    During transitional periods, hidden employee issues will arise, so make sure you have mediation systems in place.

    Management should employ emotional intelligence to assist in resolving issues and ensure a smooth transition for all the parties involved.


    Change in business can be scary. 

    To help your team feel empowered and confident during the change process, it is important to have solid strategies in place for dealing with resistance before implementing any changes. 

    In this guide, we’ve shared the best practices that will enable you to create a more efficient, streamlined change process by picking the right methods for managing resistance. 

    Remember to take time to prepare properly so there will be no surprises, and more importantly, keep an open mind when considering new ideas or initiatives that may not seem relevant at first glance!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are 4 things key to change management?

    There are many interpretations of a successful change management process as well as many different key points to take into account. However, on a general level, the 4 most important things about change management are understanding change, planning right, leading the employees, and making sure it sticks. Change management activities can be implemented on all these key points.

    What are the activities contributing to effective change management?

    There are several activities contributing to effective change management such as games and gatherings, meetings and tasks that consequently get employees to contribute to and embrace change.

    Why is making a diagnosis a critical part of a change management plan?

    Change management starts with understanding change itself, as well as anticipating the reaction of the employees. Change cannot take place in a healthy manner unless a thorough diagnosis is underway.

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