Change and Resistance

“This is the way we’ve always done it.”

“I don’t like that.”

“Why are you trying to change things?” 

“I like things better the old way.” 

Any of these sound familiar? And the bigger question – did you automatically read them in a nasally, whiny voice?  These statements usually accompany situations where there’s been a change that’s not necessarily a bad thing…  just different.  And people resist ideas that are new or different for various reasons.  Some of those reasons include:

  1. Change forces people out of their familiar comfort zones
  2. Fear of the unknown
  3. A lack of understanding for the change
  4. Trust issues
  5. Poor communication

For those who are resistant to change, these questions harbor feelings of insecurity and doubt. They create tension and, in a team environment, friction.  And for the one who is initiating the change, frustration over negative attitudes. After all, it’s hard to stay positive and excited about something when negativity and pushback surround you!

With two very different perspectives about change, there are two roles each camp must assume to make change a positive experience for everyone.

For those who initiate change, the best way to offset resistance is first to understand why things have been done the way they’ve been done.  Ask questions.  Then ask some more.  After all, before cleaning the house, you have to assess the situation.  In some cases, there are very valid reasons as to why a seemingly antiquated process is still utilized, but understanding the existing structure is the first step in implementing change.

Next, the one who is facilitating the change has to communicate the details – the steps involved and the “why’s” behind the process.  Doing so helps foster trust and instill a greater understanding from those who may be skeptical.

The ones who are implementing change have an uphill battle to face.  The vision has to be shared to keep change on a gentle slope versus a difficult mountain.

On the other hand, there are the naysayers.  They have an active role in the process, too.  While change may not be something that’s welcome, trying to understand the why is half the battle.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  But ask the right person.  Asking peers and subordinates will not yield a productive response.  Financial guru Dave Ramsey refers to this as “complaining up.” You should always take your concerns to the people who can address your questions rather than gossip about them to the people who can’t do anything about them.

An open mind and willingness to try are half the battle.  Negative thoughts will take root and fester, but if a person is willing to try, it makes the process far more enjoyable for everyone.

The attitude of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” doesn’t work as well anymore.  We live in a world of technology, and we have to adapt to keep up the pace.  Granted, not every change is going to improve things, but it’s at least worth the try. And “try,” as a verb, works far better with a positive attitude.

Most of all, before resisting change, come to the table with a solution.  Change isn’t usually done arbitrarily but is done to make things better for the whole.  However, if the change isn’t working, and it’s not for lack of trying, at least bring a solution to the table.  The proposed change may not be the answer, but a solution can usually be found in the middle with a little bit of creative thinking.  And besides… who doesn’t love a great brainstorming session?

Change is difficult for most people.  Even for the movers and shakers who seek to bring change.  But with open communication, lots of questions, and a genuine willingness to try, the dynamic of change doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating.


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