Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change, Part 1 – 8 Simple Strategies to Creating Successful Change

by | Jan 6, 2022 | General, Business Growth Tips Blog, Outsourcing and Hiring Tips Blog

overcoming employee resistance

The challenge of overcoming employee resistance is a hurdle both small and large business owners face.As your business grows, it has to adapt to changing circumstances. Trends and tastes change, and new challenges emerge; and it’s the most flexible, adaptive businesses that survive. This evolutionary process can be painful – especially when your employees are resistant to change.

From my experience, balancing the needs of the business, and the desires of its employees, is the most common problem facing small business owners and their managers. Implementing structural change in a business has become a dreaded necessity – but it needn’t be.

Here are 8 surefire strategies to overcoming employee resistance; the most effective, efficient and productive ways to create successful change in your business.

#1. Check your attitude.

Addressing your own attitude might sound contrarian, when it’s clearly the employees who have a stubborn attitude – but as a business owner or manager, you have to first put on the mindset that the “buck stops here”.

There’s no need to be a “barker”or a “dictator”if it doesn’t suit your personality – but if employees are resisting change, their lack of cooperation is probably because you’re letting people walk all over you. Check your attitude:

abc   Are you catering to their needs?

abc   Are you caving in to their resistances?

abc   Are you managing conflict, or are you avoiding conflict?

#2. Commit to being the leader.  

If people aren’t listening to you, they’re not following you. People follow leaders.

Eleanore Roosevelt so famously said, “If you have to tell people you’re a lady; you’re not a lady.The same applies to management. If you have to tell your people to listen to you, you’re not a leader — or at least, you’re not acting like a leader.

Overcoming employee resistance starts with committing to be a strong leader.  I often discover that managers and business owners who struggle with overcoming employee resistance hold misconceptions of what a leader is. A leader is not a dictator. A leader is not barker. A leader does not need to strong arm or threaten their people to do what you need them to do.

Reframe your definition of a leader as being more of a coach. If you were the new Head Coach of a football team and you needed to develop a group of underdogs into a championship level team, ask yourself:

abc   Have you cast an exciting, clear vision of where your company (team) is going?

abc   Are you raising the bar on their effort, performance and work ethic?

abc   Are you holding each team player accountable to follow through – or are you letting them slack?

#3. Have clear player POSITIONS.  

One of the biggest hindrances to overcoming employee resistance to change is that employees were never given clear expectations to begin with.

abc   What exactly was each person hired for?

abc   What position are they playing on your team?

If they’re hired to play wide receiver, then clearly define the role of a wide receiver. Don’t confuse and frustrate your players by having them play linebacker, quarterback, defense and wide receiver all in the same game.

People’s reactions are always based on their expectations. If you’re constantly throwing new changes to their job function it’s understandable that employees would grow increasingly frustrated. After all, they’re trying to hit a constantly moving target.

Employees end up thinking “Hey, this is not what I signed up for!–and their motivation plummets.

In order to mitigate that:

#4. Have clear player EXPECTATIONS.  

If you want to stop the reaction of resistance, start by setting clear player expectations.

abc   Do you have a written job description for each player?

abc   Is the language crystal clear in objective terms rather than subjective and open to interpretation?

abc   Does it define performance that meets expectations, falls below expectations or exceeds expectations?

#5. Dont pass the buck

If you don’t have written job descriptions, avoid the temptation to allow people to define their own roles or write their own job descriptions.

Having your employees write their own job description is only valuable as a barometer to assess their expectations of their role within the business; and how they align with your expectations.

I do not recommend taking this approach to let your players write their own player positions and expectations for you. That’s your job. These are decisions that should be made by you.

Ok, now that you’ve read this far, you’re ready to dive into

Part 2 – Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change.

In Part 2, let me share three more tips and techniques for creating successful change in your business; and even explore how you can benefit from them in all areas of your life!

#6. Hold firm expectations.

Once you set your expectations, you need to hold firm to them.People can tell whether you’re firm or fake. They can smell that fear a mile away. Overcoming employee resistance to change will only continue to be a challenge if managers continue to waver on setting clear, firm expectations.

abc   What are the non-negotiable expectations you have for each employee?

abc   What is the language you use to communicate those expectations?

abc   What is the tone you project? What does your non-verbal communication say?

#7. Build relationships.

Overcoming employee resistance to change doesn’t come from focusing on their behavior; but from focusing on your relationship.

Employee resistance occurs when there’s no respect.

There’s no respect because there is no trust.

There’s no trust because there’s no relationship.

There’s no relationship because there is no consistent one-on-one time.

Remember that: relationships are NOT built in groups. Relationships are built one-on-one

abc   How often do you schedule one-on-one time with each of your direct reports?

abc   Do you critique your employees more than you appreciate them?

#8. Find out their WHATand their WHY.

As business owners and managers, we all want a team of players who are highly self-motivated. Self-motivated people are naturally self absorbed. But, in this case, being self absorbed is not a bad thing.

If you want your people to care about what you care about (growing the company), then you need to first care about what they care about.

Why? Because creating success is about creating a win-win situation for everyone.

When you’re struggling with overcoming employee resistance, remember:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

abc   How much do you know about each employee?

abc   Have you ever asked what motivates them?

abc   Have you ever asked what their goals are, in both their professional and personal lives?

abc   Have you ever asked why? What would achieving that goal allow them to do, be or have, that they don’t have right now?

Benefiting from these skills in all areas of your life

These same strategies for overcoming employee resistance to change can be applied to our personal lives as well.  These leadership skills, coaching skills and management skills are also lasting life skills that you’ll benefit from in all types of relationships.

As a parent, I want to raise my three kids to be highly self-motivated people. Like most parents, I want my kids to dream big and reach their full potential.

Despite this, I started noticing that I was nagging my son, Thomas, to get out there and practice his soccer drills. I was annoyed that I was investing time and money into his soccer training, but he was RESISTING the advice of his coach.

I decided to apply these same strategies at home. When he was around 12 years old, I sat down with my son and asked him: ‘What’s your dream?’

His answer – to become a professional soccer player. 

We talked about his why, and defined what would that allow him to achieve his desires in life. Then, all I had to do was show him what separates the extraordinary soccer players from the less extraordinary soccer players.

We defined what the extraordinary soccer players did to get there —(exceeding expectations)

We defined what lesser soccer players did —(meeting expectations)

We defined what failed soccer players did —(below expectations)

‘Thanks for believing in me

My son Thomas will soon be turning 15, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t had to nag him since that conversation when he was 12. In fact, I truly admire how highly self-motivated he has become. The snow or rain does not stop him from running outside or practicing his shots on net.  He is not only disciplined in his cross training routine at home, he’s also surprisingly disciplined in choosing what he eats as an athlete.

The best part as a parent was the day my son took me aside and said, “Mom, thanks for believing in me.  Wow! I can last on those 6 words for the next 6 years!

As a business owner or manager, it’s the same thing. When you have an employee who takes the time to say, “Thanks coach, for believing in me.” – that’s the kind of stuff that fuels your tank for many more years to come.

Not only do these strategies help you in overcoming employee resistance to change; they can benefit all areas of your life. Instituting these 8 starter strategies also nurtures fierce loyalty among your employees – creating motivated, productive players that will go over and beyond their call of duty.

QUESTION: What is your biggest challenge when it comes to overcoming employee resistance? Please share your comments in the box below.

You can also download my handy cheat sheet on
Creating High Performing Teams Here.

 

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