Any change situation in a company implies stress, frustrations, fears, etc., more or less strong, depending on the individuals, the importance, the pace of change and the impact on work.

Behavioural reactions can then manifest in the form of avoidance, denial, anger, procrastination, disinterest, etc. These reactions, commonly called “resistances”, are a struggle (active or passive) against what is happening.

Ignoring them or trying to stifle them by authoritarian or impassive management is unfortunately the best way to strengthen them. Why? because behind the resistance lies an emotional charge whose energy, sometimes powerful, nourishes and reinforces the homeostasis of the system; and few companies have the internal skills to manage them, hence the fear of dealing with them.

So how can resistance be managed to smooth change?

Resistance management should always be part of the change process because it partly determines its success; and even more, when change has a profound impact on the company’s life.

 

• Mourning the past to bring out a new energy

Marking the end of a cycle is the first step to evacuate nostalgia and make room for a new collective energy.

Any change in a company implies a release of the old and the acceptance of a loss (whether it is the departure of a manager, a team change, a merger, an identity loss, a flagship product stoppage, etc). For this reason, before being able to see things differently, acceptance of change requires mourning for the past.

Offering a group the opportunity to assess what has been learned, appreciated, what will no longer be, what has been experienced and what is felt, etc. can sometimes be enough to mark, raise awareness and integrate this end. (Be careful, however, to set up a protective framework to allow individuals to do so without fear).

Tensions and worries are thus gradually reduced by the recognition, at the collective level, of what each individual is going through. These moments also reinforce the bonds between the members of the group towards a better cooperation and implication of each one in the continuation of the operations.

 

• Restoring a common sense to action to move forward together

The second step is giving back a sense to action to compensate for the frustrations and concerns generated by change.

Giving a new sense to action means involving individuals in the creation of this future, both in its meaning and implementation. This can be, for example, working in a group around the purpose of a project, redefining management principles, corporate values, co-developing new ways of working, etc.

The objective is to align perceptions to fluidify movement in the same direction, which is only possible through a common construction of that direction. It means allowing everyone to be an integral part of the company’s history and future.

In the absence of being able to control change, individuals remain free to agree on how to work together to feel at home in this new context. It is thus becoming a player in shaping change to no longer (or less) suffer from it.

 

Conclusion

The more radical, rapid and imposed the change is, the stronger the resistance will be.

Trying to rationalize change through rhetoric about its causes and goals will never be enough to allow employees to accept it. It is also necessary to consider the emotional part related to the change process.

Welcoming resistance and considering it as part of the change process is thus a way of taking care of people. It is also a way of protecting the organization, by defusing behaviours upstream that could later gangrene the smooth running of the activity.

 

Magali Genieys
© 2018 Alcheemiz

(To go further: “Petits deuils en entreprise” by Jacques-Antoine Malarewicz, Pearson education editions)

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