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Myth - People Don't Like Change

21/05/2010


We’ve all taken a vacation where we’ve truly enjoyed discovering a new place, or become excited about buying a new car, or happily welcomed a new member into our family—it is a myth that people don’t like change. In actual fact, what people dislike is lack of control over their future and the uncertainty that surrounds an unknown change. When people can’t control what their future holds, they become resistant to the change that is inflicting uncertainty. And, when people can see a change coming, they become increasingly aware of the losses that they will experience because of it, and become resistant to the change that will inflict these losses.

The principle of managing change in these circumstances is simple—give people back their sense of control over the unknown and help them move past the sense of loss. The practice of managing change in these circumstances is a bit more difficult. Employees know that sometimes their workplaces need to change, and most of them even understand that they can’t be involved in every detail of planning the change. Organizations can make significant strides towards minimizing employee resistance by maximizing employee engagement in the process and minimizing the losses that employees will face.

How does an organization do this when a project involves large-scale change with significant staff impact?

  • Plan for meaningful staff engagement. Typically in times of change, organizations engage employees using “back-end” activities, such as networks for sharing approved communications or validating new processes or technology that have been mostly developed. To make staff involvement more meaningful, find aspects of the change into which they can provide valuable design input. For example, in a technology development project, large groups of employees can be involved in providing the project team with descriptions of their current business processes and an evaluation of what works well and opportunities for improvement. Participating in this type of activity gives employees a level of control over the future of their workplace while providing project teams with information that is valuable to solid decision-making.
  • Probe into the impacts of a project to minimize losses. Often, the losses that employees will associate with a change are not the same losses that are perceived by a project team that is involved in designing and implementing the change. Listening to what employees feel they will lose often reveals impacts of the change that have not previously been considered and may be avoidable. For losses that cannot be avoided, spending less time telling employees how the change will impact them and more time engaging in open conversation with employees will uncover information about the unavoidable impacts around which employee supports can be built, will help to build trust within the organization, and will serve to reduce employee resistance to change.

Any significant changes that your organization makes will result in a certain level of employee resistance. However, they also present you with opportunities to build a track record of managing change well as you effectively address resistance. In turn, significant change management efforts can result in more meaningful processes and successful solutions.

For information about how MNP can assist your organization with managing change, please contact Leanne Douglas at 204.788.6092 or your local MNP Consultant.