overcoming employee resistanceThe 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.


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

QUESTION:  What additional factors have you seen contribute to employee resistance and how did you overcome it? Please share your comments and questions in the box below.

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