Anyone who has worked in or led an organization's transformation understands change is not easy. 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. For your plan to be accepted, you must anticipate and overcome any negativity, anxiety and/or resistance.
As author Liz Keever explains, leaving some kind of option—even if the overall shift is still mandatory—can make people more willing to give your changes a chance. It also helps them feel like they're part of the process of making the change happen, rather than having it thrust upon them:
Change cannot happen to people. It needs to happen with people. Change must be co-created. Everyone should have some say in how the change is implemented. It is their job and their life. Let them have an element of control. If you keep lines of communication open for suggestions, you will hear lots of good ideas from the people who need to make the change happen. Use those ideas because it will build more engagement in the process. Create the change together.
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.