Dealing with Resistance

As the story goes, “what was once ours is now theirs.”  It is “them” and “us,”   whether it be a disgruntled workforce due to a company takeover (amicable or hostile), a merger, or a strategic move to streamline business practices across a global enterprise (get everyone  migrated to one, centralized resource planning system).  Let’s face it:  folks are giving up what they have always known and what they have grown accustom to.

The investment individuals put into designing and tuning pre-existing processes is a huge factor that bears a lot of weight in this emotional tug of war.  The chatter near the water cooler or whispers heard throughout the hallway may consist of:

  • “I want what I currently have”
  • “I don’t like what they propose”
  • “What I use now is perfect, it’s tailored for the work I do”
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Tips for working with individuals who are resistant and how to get them onboard:

  1. Get them involved!  Involve the resister or someone on their team who is highly respected.  Let them help define the “future state” solution.  For example, a subject matter expert (SME) who is a key influencer
  2. Show the resister(s) the proposed solution.  Demonstrate it; let them poke holes in it.  Ask them to note their likes and dislikes.  Ask them to give you detailed reasons  why they like and/or dislike the solution. Take copious notes and commit to sharing their comments with leadership; make certain you follow through. Leadership needs to address these concerns.  An in-person, face-to-face meeting  is a very effective  process interaction that can be used to address resistance.  Remember, we are talking about targeting key influential resisters

You might be thinking “who has the time for this?”  Actually, your Change Practitioner should be doing this.  They are your eyes and ears and should be positioned as such.  The objective is to find common ground and move forward.  It might be difficult to negotiate a corporate ultimatum; the work team may have to give up some or most of what they want; but, if you appeal to the WIIFTGG (what’s in it for the greater good), and commit to supporting your stakeholders all the way through to the end, this will lay the foundation for building trust.  Let these folks know you have their best interest at hand. Do not merely give them lip service.  Taking action on their behalf will prove you are committed.

In some situations, the Change Practitioner may not be the most appropriate person to “deliver the message”. In this case, resistance is often best handled by someone who is near and dear or someone who is close to a worker or work team—someone the worker or work team trusts.  If your Change Practitioner is not able to establish a relationship with a particular work group then it might be wise to harness the efforts of an internal, “change support network”.  Managers do have an advantage, they communicate face to face with their staff.  The Change Practitioner would then be tasked with building an internal “change support network.”–of course, with leadership’s approval.  This network would then step in, collaborate with the Change Practitioner, and become the eyes and ears of the leadership team.


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