Does resistance to change make change managers and leaders worried?
Yes , it often does.
Because, resistance to change is generally considered as a negative force which creates obstacles to change management. It produces conflicts and adversely affects performance. Assuming resistance to change always negative is one of the biggest mistakes change managers and leaders make.
And good news is that now a days many management scholars have been questioning this view. They are of the view that resistance to change is misinterpreted.
Recent studies on organizational change offer a fresh perspective that resistance to change is not necessarily negative but it is beneficial. It has a great value and potential for organizational growth.
Instead of trying to overcome resistance to change ruthlessly, the change managers need to see positive side of resistance. The resistance brings many opportunities and helps to redefine change. It is inability of leaders to see resistance to change as positive force that cause failure of change management. Thus, it is important for every change manager to benefit from resistance for successfully implementation of change.
Let’s find out how resistance to change actually benefit change management.
Employees are no longer in denial
When people resist change it shows that the message of change has been communicated to them. They foresee change as a reality and they are no longer in a state of denial which is more harmful for any change initiative. Because change leaders don’t know how employees will exactly react when change is fully implemented.
Here the job of change managers and leaders is to take assessment of how message is communicated to employees. Are the employees have same understanding of change ? Are the reasons of resistance same as anticipated by managers and leaders ? If there are gaps found then this is the right time to communicate message again
Two Way Communication
Resistance to change by employees indicates two-way communication within organization. And this is a big gift from resistance to change. It means that employees and leaders are in debate and discussion on vision, results and impact of change. It is always harmful if only change managers and leaders own change and are continuously talking about it.
Resistance shows that employees are questioning vision of change usually developed by leaders. This two-way communication will always help redefining vision and desired results of change. Here the job of change managers and leaders is to get answers of all tough questions as a result of dialogue and debate between all stakeholders of change initiative.
Identification of Flaws in Design of Change
Many a times leaders and managers make mistakes in design of change initiative. They may be wrong about reason of change or have poor understanding about technological transformation required for change or underestimate cost of change. All of these flaws can be identified by employees who are usually affected by change.
The leaders should remain open to listen candid views of employees and embrace resistance. By doing this they will be able to find out and understand flaws in strategic thinking behind their change initiative. So, resistance should be considered as a good source of learning and feedback on change.
Prevention of Costly Mistakes
Resistance to change not only identify flaws in design but it saves heavy cost of mistakes. This is the biggest financial benefit of resistance to change. All the leaders and managers should be thankful to resistance to change if they take corrective actions before implementing change.
The leaders should pay a heed to resistance and conclude an inclusive debate before spending on change initiative. This will save not only cost but reputation of organization.
Improved Participation and Engagement
Resistance to change means employees are free to express opposite point of views. They raise their voices without fear and want their voices heard by change leaders. This indicates a sense of participation and engagement by employees in affairs of organization.
Now it is responsibility of change leaders to build on this culture of participation and engagement. They should emphatically listen to genuine concerns of employees and allay their fears. They should try that everyone feels his/her importance and this will strengthen culture of participation.
Finding New Possibilities
Leaders are receptive to new ideas when they are all eyes and ears to resistance to change. The brainstorming on problems and feedback given by employees always leads to find out new possibilities about change. This process may result into innovation ideas which are not explored before.
It is often seen that if resistance is not supressed and employees are engaged in a positive way then they find solutions of problems. This will improve and strengthen whole idea of change.
Deal with the Past
There may be a link between current resistance to change and the past failures on such initiatives. The change leaders and managers may be new to organization and unaware of such experiences of the past. And if they ignore voices of employees then they may not be able to know about the past experiences.
In this way resistance to change brings an opportunity for change leaders and managers to earn from the past experiences. They can resolve the leftover issue of the past before proceeding further with change initiative.
Resistance to change signifies passion of employees. And this passion can work wonders for organization. This passion and energy can be useful if it is channeled properly and directed towards implementation of change.
By listening to resistance and ensuring participation of employees in change process, change leaders can win the buy-in of employees. And then their passion and energy can be directed towards learning new desired skills and taking up new roles and responsibilities.
Take Home Points
- Resistance to change is not always bad and there are many positive aspects of it which can benefit change leaders and managers.
- Resistance means employees are not in denial phase and change has already been kicked in.
- It is like two-way communication which leads to constructive debate and discussion.
- It helps to spot fault lines in design of change initiative.
- It also helps to prevent costly mistakes before investing on change.
- It gives a chance to improve participation and engagement of employees.
- It brings opportunity to explore new possibilities.
- It helps to deal with failures of the past.
- Resistance generates passion which can be channelled towards implementation of change.