Understanding Employee Resistance Towards Workplace Changes


Every time there’s an announcement regarding changes in the way a workplace functions, there is inevitable resistance and backlash from the workforce – something that negatively affects both the company and themselves.

Resistance to change is a natural phenomenon – we are programmed to react to anything that adds risk and unpredictability to our livelihoods. Workplace changes, though, almost always have some fort of benefits for everyone involved, counter-intuitive as that may appear at first glance.

This is where great management triumphs over average or even good management – by understanding that the employee resistance is not to the changes themselves but to the upheaval and the lack of insight, great managers can keep their employees happy and productive through the period of change. Here are a few common scenarios that trouble employees, along with some brief guidelines on how to assuage those possible issues.

Job Security

Job security is by far the biggest concern employees have in the face of impending change. They view any streamlining or process optimization (whether through the addition of technology or otherwise) as proof that they are about to become redundant. If that’s not the case, management (or HR) should do their best to ensure that all employees are aware of this, as worrying about job security directly and harshly impacts productivity.

Bad (or No) Communication

It is essential that all communication coming out of senior management is carefully curated for delivering the right impact to employees. By keeping it simple and fact oriented – particularly detailing the how’s and why’s – you can reduce the amount of pushback from the workforce.

By ensuring that your employees are aware of the impending changes and knowledgeable on how and why they are necessary and beneficial, you will see a marked improvement in employee morale which in turn ensures that the period of change does not bring about a dip in productivity.

In fact, the absolute worst thing that can be done at this time is to not entrust employees with the facts, or keep mum on the events – it will prevent people from preparing and adapting to the change and foster varying levels of resentment.

It Boils Down to Loss of Control

Job security, career security, everything eventually comes down to loss of control. We like stability, we like control, it eases stress and boosts confidence. Remove that feeling of control, and you’re left with a lot of confused and helpless employees – the resistance you face is essentially their attempt to reclaim that control.

Any solution to the problem of employee resistance must be based around communication – it’s the core around which everything goes. Communicating the company’s upcoming decisions empower employees with knowledge. Pair that with an open door policy and you have a team of people who know that their opinions and contributions have worth and matter to the upper management, that there is a place they can take their fears and worries and be rewarded with resolution and assistance.

There is no upside to a communication blackout. Organizations that practice this sort of block often have employees plagued in mistrust, panic and office politics that end up convoluting the change process and creating a hostile office environment.



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