In the previous post, I mentioned that change is inevitable in order for organisations to survive. I also said that some people hate change. That means managing change is a very stressful process for many leaders.

Why is that? Why do people resist change?

Emotional attachments and bad memories

People develop emotional attachments to things. We have our favourite places we like to eat, our favourite clothes, our favourite colleagues. Our first response to change will be an emotional one.

I heard a talk about change by Tom Roth of Wilson Learning Worldwide at the World of Learning exhibition a year or two ago and he talked about the problems in retaining employee engagement in times of change and, based on research, he outlined the most common things people say when they experience change:

  • I used to know what my job was here
  • I’m losing some friends and colleagues
  • I was not consulted
  • I am too old to change what I do
  • I used to be someone important
  • I don’t understand why we are changing
  • I feel like this is being done to me
  • I don’t understand how these things work

Those are emotional responses. They require a lot of skill and energy to address as leader.

Something else we have to be aware of is that some people may have had bad experiences when change has happened to them in the past and these bad experiences will heighten their fears.

Your team will also have a huge repository of knowledge and they may spot problems with the proposed changes. They are the ones having to do the job and will know whether new processes or systems will work for them and their customers.

Whether their objections are based on nervousness, bad experiences or logic, each one of their concerns are valid and need to be handled on its merits.

Understanding the reasons why

Good leaders have high degrees of Emotional Intelligence. They are self-aware and have a lot of empathy. That allows them to understand people and their motivations.

If you want to be a successful leader you are going to have to lead your team through change at some point. You are going to have to understand what is important to each team member and understand the points of resistance. 

When you witness resistance to change, take a step back and listen to what people are saying. Assess which are emotional responses and which are more thoughtful responses. Remember that using logic does not have an impact on other people’s emotional responses, you need to let the emotion ride out. Let them vent their emotions until they are ready to start to think through the implications with more clarity.

If you try and rush things and try to push forward without addressing these emotions, you will just build up resentment and any changes you do achieve are likely to be short-lived.

Make sure you can answer each concern with clarity and openness and, if you cannot answer a question, say so. Commit to finding an answer but be upfront.

As I said, change is inevitable. Don’t fight it. Take it on and lead your team through change and you and your team are more likely to emerge stronger.

Get in touch

If you need help with implementing change, get in touch and we can talk about whether you need consultancy or training to help you be more successful.