“Change is the only constant.” This well-worn phrase is truer than ever today with the rapid rate at which technology, and therefore the way we work, is changing. Yet many people resist change, particularly if they fear it could negatively impact them or their colleagues.
But in today’s climate, your enterprise can’t risk being left behind. Things have to change, and fast, if you want to remain competitive. So how can you as a manager reduce the amount of resistance to your proposed technical change?
The first step is understanding why some people are resisting the change you want to implement. There are a number of common reasons why people want to avoid workplace change, such as the implementation of a new tool:
The Social Aspects of the Change
When people show resistance to change, it may not be the new tool or process itself that they have an issue with. Technical changes often come along with social changes. This means it could affect their working relationships or their position in the team.
Managers re-stating the technical benefits of the change will therefore not alleviate these worries. It’s important to listen to what people are really worried about in regards to the change. It's likely their resistance has more to do with how it might affect their routines and working relationships, rather than worries about using the new technology itself.
People often react badly to change if they feel it’s being mandated from an ‘ivory tower’. They're the ones who are doing the job from day to day and who the change will affect most. An enforced change can make them feel like their expertise is being overlooked.
Involving people in making decisions about changes that affect them can help to alleviate this. But be careful: some managers make the mistake of using ‘participation’ as a gimmick to try and make people think a mandated change was their idea and they usually see right through this. To really address people’s issues with the change, you need to be prepared to genuinely take their opinions on board.
Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the unknown can be one of the biggest reasons for resistance to change, so try to reduce the unknowns as much as possible. If you spring change on people suddenly with little information they are likely to panic. Transparency and clear communication will help to avoid rumours that spread false information and negativity.
Timing is everything. If you’re already undergoing a number of big changes, people are less likely to accept another one due to ‘change fatigue’. They won’t have the energy to learn and implement something new if they’re already preoccupied dealing with other changes.
Heaping too much change on your team over a short period of time can cause resistance, so this requires tact and empathy to navigate. Ensure that there are no other major initiatives going on that could negatively impact the change you want to make.
The worst-case scenario for most people when it comes to workplace change is the loss of their job. Even if they know their own job is safe, empathy for other colleagues may make them resistant to change that may lead to job losses.
Unfortunately, this is the most difficult concern to combat. Some changes will inevitably involve downsizing the workforce and all you can do is ensure that you handle this sensitively. One way to do this is to ensure that you are clear with communications to avoid rumours and panic spreading.