Resistance: A Stranglehold on Business

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The ability to adapt and change is essential to business success. But not everyone embraces change so easily. These tips can help you identify and eliminate resistance in the workplace.

Anyone familiar with the Star Trek universe knows that resistance is futile. Unfortunately, real-life resistance to change is alive and well and often firmly entrenched in many small businesses. Common signs include ideas that never reach fruition and initiatives that go nowhere.

There’s a huge difference between taking a conservative approach and failing to adapt to changes in the market, in customer needs or in technology. Resistance on that level can have serious consequences and leave you wide open to competitors who are willing and able to adapt and capture your market share.

In an article at Small Business Computing, Rick Maurer, an organizational consultant and author of “Beyond the Wall of Resistance,” notes that workforce resistance causes approximately 70 percent of organizational change to fail. You can fight back using these steps to identify resistance and break down the barriers to effective change.

Step 1: Identify resistance

Blatant criticism is an obvious sign of resistance. However, the other side of that coin is the easy yes, and while more subtle, it’s no less dangerous. Employees or managers who agree quickly may not have thought things through thoroughly, whether out of a desire to be seen as cooperative or to avoid giving offense. Either way, they might not really understand what they’ve agreed to, and that quick yes can quickly turn into a protracted, passive-aggressive no.

Take the time to explain your thinking, and make that sure everyone understands the full scope of the changes and why they’re necessary.

Step 2: Identify the reasons

Employees resist change for three basic reasons. In order of severity: they don’t get it, they don’t like it, or they don’t like you. Look for someone on your team who’s harboring at least one of these perspectives anytime you have a project, processes or other business initiative that’s stalled.

Step 3: Fix it

If they don’t get it, you need to find a new way to deliver your message. Repeating yourself won’t help; they heard you the first time. Instead, try a different approach or provide additional education or training.

If they don’t like it, chances are someone finds something about the new process frightening or uncomfortable. Look at the situation from their perspective. This can help you present the information in a way that addresses their fears or concerns.

If they don’t like you, simply be direct and ask them. You may have to press further if all you get is a polite, but evasive response. Maurer believes these situations are usually a matter of trust. If you outrank the person or people involved, use an anonymous survey with a comment area to discover reasons behind the lack of trust.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.

Adapted from How to Overcome Resistance in the Workplace, by Pedro Hernandez at Small Business ComputingFollow Small Business Computing on Twitter.