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In the world today, how to stay competitive in the global market is a big question to almost every organization. The frequent changes in government legislation, resource availability, political issues can affect a company's ability to succeed despite its solid internal practices. Therefore, it is necessary for all businesses to change constantly to adapt to the new dynamic environment. The need for change is so strong that if companies do not introduce changes within their systems, they will not be able to survive. Business shift helps firms and companies strengthen their competitive competencies, improve their services as well as expand their activities. 2
1.Definitions and Terms 3
1.1.What are 'Change' and 'Change Management'? 3
1.2.What is 'Resistance to Change'? 4
2.The main reasons for resistance to change in the workplace 5
3.Methods to successfully manage resistance to change 6
3.1. Communication and Education 7
Change brings uncertainty which is a main cause of resistance. Thus, it is important to inform everybody about everything in relation to the upcoming changes in order to reduce the uncertainty. 7
It is believed that communication can make people get closer to each other. A wise leader should take this advantage of communication to help people see the logic behind the change, the need of change, the implication as well as the benefits they can have as changing is successful. 7
3.2. Participation and involvement 8
3.3. Building support and commitment 8
3.4. Negotiation and agreement 9
3.5. Manipulation and Cooptation 9
3.7. Selecting people who accept change 10
In the world today, how to stay competitive in the global market is a big question to almost every organization. The frequent changes in government legislation, resource availability, political issues can affect a company's ability to succeed despite its solid internal practices. Therefore, it is necessary for all businesses to change constantly to adapt to the new dynamic environment. The need for change is so strong that if companies do not introduce changes within their systems, they will not be able to survive. Business shift helps firms and companies strengthen their competitive competencies, improve their services as well as expand their activities.
However, in spite of its benefits, change is usually not welcomed by all the employees. There are a number of reasons for the fear of adapting changes. Whatever the reasons are, the resistance to change may cause the innovation efforts to fail which might then, in some cases, results in business depression and even collapse.
This essay will identify the effective methods a manager can apply to reduce his staff's resistance after trying to explain the sources and reasons for the against attitudes to alteration. It also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of those management methods. By that way, it is possible to have an overview of the way change agents can do to ensure the success of their change efforts.
Definitions and Terms
What are 'Change' and 'Change Management'?
Change is defined as 'Any variation or alteration; a passing from one state or form to another; as, a change of countenance; a change of habits or principles' (Brainy Quote n.d.).
Change is a natural part of the human condition. It is likely that people react to professional change in the same way as they react to change in their private lives.
The main changes happening in the workplace are changes in strategy, structure and design, technology and human resources. Among those, a change in organizational strategy is an attempt to alter the organization's alignment with its environment.
But what are forces for change? It varies from the nature of workforce, the development of technology, the competition, the social trends to the world politics. All these issues impose changes on organizations.
Changes poses a potential threat to the 'key meanings' of people's lives and work such as the relationship with others, the perception of status, the moral and religious values, the habits and routines. As the result, the common reaction to change is resistance.
As defined by Recklies (2001), 'Change management means to plan, initiate, realize, control, and finally stabilize change processes on both, corporate and personal level'.
Managing change is a difficult task because it is so easy to introduce change the wrong way. In addition, there is no global perfect solution to all change programmes because there are differences in organizations, the reasons for change, timescales and budgets, etc... Change may affect the entire company, a department, a group or just one employee, so it is quite pointless to look for the comprehensive way of introducing change. However, there are ways managers can do to reduce the level of change resistance.
What is 'Resistance to Change'?
Resistance to change is defined as 'the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them' (Changing minds organization n.d.)
It is believed that resistance to change is a common behavior of a person. It is considered a normal chemical reaction that emerges when there is a threat to the interests of an individual, regardless of the true value of the threat, whether it is real or only a perception. Change does not always bring bad things to people. However, people do not like change because they dislike being changed.
According to Robbins and Judge (2007, p.647), one of the most findings among studies of individual and organizational behavior is that organizations' members resist change. Resistance to change within an organization can be divided into three levels: organization, group and individual. In each level, the resistance happens due to a variety of reasons which might be discussed in the next part of the essay.
Robbins and Judge (2007, p.647) also reveal that there are many ways that resistance can exhibit. It can be overt, implicit, immediate or deferred. It is not difficult for a manager to cope with those resistances which are overt and immediate. He or she might soon settle the situation causing by employees' complaints, intention of going on strike or slowing down their work by his or her wise management approaches. In contrast, it might be a real challenge for change agents to deal with the implicit and deferred behaviors which are not surfaced on the internal activities. Those which are hardly to recognized can have bad effects on the organizations because of their long-time existence.
The main reasons for resistance to change in the workplace
Literatures have reviewed a lot of reasons for the against attitudes in the workplace. In each level, the reasons are different.
In organizational level, it refers to:
Power and conflict: This happens as a change may benefit one department while harming another in the organization.
Functional Orientation: Different departments and their members will have different points of view on problems and issues. Therefore, it is quite hard to come to an agreement relating to changes.
Mechanistic Structure: People in a mechanistic structure are expected to work in certain ways and do not contribute their initiative to adjust the behavior to changing conditions
Organizational culture: It occurs as changes within organizations break the values and norms in the culture of the organization.
In group level, the reasons include:
Group norms: Changes in task and role relationships within a group may alter the interactions between group members. That might cause resistance to change.
Group cohesiveness: Resistance occurs as members of the group wish things within the group to stay the same.
Groupthink and Escalation of commitment: People in the group ignore negative information in order to agree to each other even when they make the wrong decisions. This may make a change in group behavior difficult.
In individual level, resistance might come from:
Fear of unknown: Change brings new things, new arrangements, new technologies which people hardly know before. It is easy to understand that there might be an anxiety raising inside each employee. Acting against the new rules is one way of reducing that kind of feeling and emotion.
Fear of failure: It is also the new things set up in companies that make employees who are too similar with the old order are fear of not be able to fit the new one. The new arrangement may require knowledge and skills which are totally beyond individuals' capability. In that context, it is understandable that resistance happens.
Disagreement with the need for change: In this case, people in companies think that change is not only unnecessary but also bring bad things that affect the development of the companies.
Lose something of value: Associates often hate the feeling of personal lost of security, position and money. They fear that the new innovation within the organizations will turn things up-side-down and that will take away their valuable things.
Insecurity and instability: No one wants to leave the environment that brings them stability and security. Leaving that zone also means they have to take the risks and challenges.
False beliefs: There are some people who think that everything will work it out itself and introducing change is totally not necessary.
Misunderstanding and lack of trust: It is the situation when there is lack of trust between the change agents and the employees. The employees might not understand the implications of change. They even perceive that it might cost them much more than they gain
Methods to successfully manage resistance to change
The first thing is that leaders should start with themselves if they want other people to change. It is important that they must be very flexible with their plan. That means they should change the plan if the current one does not have good results.
In fact, it is necessary that leaders should have a right attitude towards the resistance. It is because the resistance is not always bad. In some cases, it makes they check their change effort to see whether it should be modified or strengthened.
Managers should also keep in mind the negative side-effects of change initiatives such as fears, stress, frustration and denial of change and take these effects into account as considering their change management methods. This helps them to be able to achieve the expected positive results later.
Especially, it is very important for a leader to take the time to find the real reasons for resistance in the organizations. By looking at the matter from different points of view and trying to understand the individuals' thinking and feeling, change agents can find the best methods to reduce resistance.
Here are the most common approaches a manager can apply to reduce resistance:
3.1. Communication and Education
Change brings uncertainty which is a main cause of resistance. Thus, it is important to inform everybody about everything in relation to the upcoming changes in order to reduce the uncertainty.
It is believed that communication can make people get closer to each other. A wise leader should take this advantage of communication to help people see the logic behind the change, the need of change, the implication as well as the benefits they can have as changing is successful.
Effective communication with the employees helps managers to clear all misunderstanding and make people accept the changes.
But what is the meaning of communication? 'It means informing everyone at every state of the change programme, inviting feedback on information and responding promptly and honestly to any feedback received' (WBS group n.d.). It is a dialogue between change agents and people who are affected by changes.
Managers should use any communication channels possible that helps them resolve the situation. They should also let the communication happen at all levels of the corporate. By that way, they can minimize the resistance to change.
Furthermore, educating employees about the need for and the good results that change can bring might also reduce the resistance. It is a good idea to deliver training programmes that improve the employees' skills and knowledge relating to change process. It makes them feel confident as facing the challenges brought by the modification.
3.2. Participation and involvement
This is the most effective methods a leader can apply to reduce resistance to change. There is a fact that if people are involved in the change process and aware of the reasons for it, they will contribute their ideas and support to the change programme.
By bringing the one who opposed change into the decisions making process, the leader can obtain commitment from them. Their participation in the changing decisions can make them hardly resist the situation. For example, before change decision is made, employees are asked for suggestions. All concerned groups are involved in the changing process would make it be possible to implement. By setting up teams to solve problems and implement personal change projects, employees can contribute to the overall change programme.
However, there are disadvantages as it is time-consuming and it can lead to a poor solution if it is not well regulated by the leaders.
3.3. Building support and commitment
Leaders can also gain commitment from employees by providing support to them by setting up new skill training programs, giving advices and instructions relating to the change process. The other effective ways include making only necessary changes, announcing the change well in advance and allowing time for people to adapt to new ways of doing things.
If people in companies feel too anxiety about a coming plan of change, employee counseling and therapy, new skills training or short paid leave of absence may facilitate adjustment. This could decrease the resistance to change.
The drawbacks of this approach is that it is expensive and time consuming. Furthermore, it does not firmly assure that the resistance will be strongly reduced.
3.4. Negotiation and agreement
By negotiating with a group of employees by exchanging valuable things such as providing them the personal needs is one way leaders can reduce resistance to change. This method can work best if the resisters are from a powerful group.
Nevertheless, the leader might have to face the situation as another party voicing their interests when they know that a compromise have been reached. In addition, he or she could be blackmailed by the group he is negotiating with. Lastly, this tactics is too costly to implement. Valuable things to a power group could cost so high that may affect the budget for change process.
3.5. Manipulation and Cooptation
According to Robbins and Judge (2007, p.649), 'Manipulation refers to covert influence attempts'. For instance, leaders can make the change appear the best way by hiding undesirable information, making up wrong stories about it to get the employees accept the plan. In other words, 'This could involve twisting and distorting of information to make it appear more attractive' (Robbins and Judge 2007, p.649).
Cooptation is a combination of Manipulation and Participation. This approach intends to "buy off" the head of the resistant party by giving him or her the key role in the change process. This is not for getting a better decision during the change but for earning the agreement.
Both of the two methods are not expensive and not difficult to gain the approval of the against groups. However, it would be very hard for the change agents if the targets discovered that they are being tricked or used. Once the resisters discovers, the credibility of the change agent might be destroyed totally.
This approach is the use of direct threats or force on people who oppose change. Managers can give out the following threats in order to make employees obey the action plan: transfer, loss of promotions, poor performance evaluation, poor letter of recommendation.
As the same to Manipulation and Cooptation, this methods are cheap and easy to gain the agreement of the resisters. However, it also has the same drawbacks to the above method. That means it could back fire if people realize that they are given empty threats
3.7. Selecting people who accept change
Research suggests that the ability to easily accept and adapt to change is related to personality. A lot of studies show that people who have positive attitude toward change, are willing to take challenges and have flexible behavior are those who can adjust best to change. Therefore, it is believed that employers should hire those people with the above characteristics. The fact that employees are willing to cope with any changes applied will help organizations minimize the resistance.
In our today turbulent world, organizations and their members have to change dynamically to perform at competitive levels.
In most organizations, managers are primary change agents who shape the change culture of the organization by their decisions and role-modeling behaviors. They are the persons who have to identify the right changes to make, provide sources to support the changes and allow enough time and flexibility to take place.
Whatever the changes and the reasons for changes inside an organization might be, managers can successfully implement the changes by communicate with his employees and let them participate into the change process. By implement comprehensive approaches, they might gain the widespread commitment of the organizations' members, contributing to the success of change efforts.