A reader asked me for some suggestions on relieving fear of change:
I am curious what you would recommend to allay people’s fears when for instance a physical change is taking place on the floor. An explanation is made, they are involved to a degree but ultimately it is for the good of the operation. This creates anger and I am at a loss as to how to diffuse this.
People commonly resist change for a variety of reasons. Although you intend for the change to result in a positive outcome, change is often viewed as negative. Before you can overcome the resistance it is wise to be aware of why the resistance exists. Usually it is a result of one of the following causes…
- People not agreeing with or understanding the value / benefits of the innovation.
- Fear of the unknown.
- People have had no opportunity to provide input in the planning or implementation of the change.
- Little or no reward / benefits to the people impacted by the idea.
- Increased effort from people required as a result of implementing the idea.
- Fear that the change will result in job cuts.
- Personality clashes between the people affected by the idea and the ideas inventor.
- No trust of the people who have been mandated to implement the change
- Belief that the change is unnecessary or will make the situation worse
- A belief that the idea is inferior to another idea.
- A feeling that the change will result in a loss of security, status, money or friends.
- Bad experiences from similar changes that had been or been attempted to be implemented in the past.
Being aware of the causes mentioned above and being able to specifically identify which ones may be relevant to our particular business greatly increases your chances of overcoming the resistance to change.
For your plan to be accepted, you must anticipate and overcome any negativity, anxiety and/or resistance. Here are a few suggestions that come to mind to reduce resistance to change:
Suggestion 1: Empower employees to become part of the change. There are several reasons people resist change, one of which is fear. Many people play "Gee, what if" scenarios over and over when a new idea is proposed. When you begin to implement your plan of action, it's essential that you invite those around you to identify how the change will influence them, benefit them, and improve their present situations.
Suggestion 2: Keep your employees informed. Communicate as much as you know about what is happening as a result of the change. One of the major reasons people resist change is fear of the unknown. If you communicate with employees and keep them informed, you put this fear to rest.
Suggestion 3: Break the change down into digestible chunks. If it makes it easier for employees, introduce the change gradually. You can give employees encouragement and help them focus on small steps they can take to move toward the future. Celebrate their small successes.
Suggestion 4: Answer the "What's in it for Me?" question. This suggestion is similar to Suggestion 1. Generally people will accept change when they see a personal benefit. Employees who are involved in determining the benefits of change are less likely to resist it. Assist employees in identifying what the change will do for them.
Suggestion 5: Give employees some control over change. As employees begin to focus on the benefits of the desired change, provide them with the opportunity to control the steps to the change. Participants in change workshops have revealed that having control reduces the anxiety and stress associated with the change implementation and increases their motivation to make the change.
Suggestion 6: Help employees assimilate the change. Once employees begin to experience change, help them assimilate it by reinforcing the personal benefits they're gaining
Change should be ongoing and employees should be a critical part of that process so there is not fear of change but a willingness to embrace it because it’s a part of the everyday process in the organization. As employees begin to demonstrate a willingness to assimilate change into their daily routine, they develop a commitment to the change, a willingness to stick to the plan of action. The change actually becomes integrated into the work environment, and employees begin to feel a sense of satisfaction in accomplishment. They readily see the payoffs associated with the change. They enjoy, and may even take credit for, their participation in the process. Employees can view their efforts to bring about change with personal respect and pride. The change becomes a part of their routine, and any lingering concerns vanish.