Overcome Organizational Resistance

I’ve written a lot in previous posts about organizational change.  Implementing alternative work plans or telework always involves changing behavior, attitudes, and opinions, and therefore, is very difficult.  Change management, stakeholder management, communication, and training all become necessary elements when implementing a new work structure.  The goal is to move up the change curve (see below) from simple awareness to commitment. 

While moving through these phases, you are bound to encounter some resistance.  To overcome resistance, it is necessary to understand why people are resisting.  According to Rick Maurer in his excellent book, Beyond the Wall of Resistance, there are 3 sources of resistance.  Depending on the source, there are various actions you can take as a leader.

  1. “I don’t get it.”   This is intellectual resistance.   People don’t understand why the organization is implementing the change or what is required of them.  A communication plan that includes time for employees to provide feedback or questions and training can help  increase employee understanding.
  2. “I don’t like it.”  This is an emotional response to the change.  Employees, or even leaders, may understand what the organization is trying to accomplish, but don’t buy-in.  Building and communicating the business case/value proposition, developing specific strategies to manage certain stakeholders, and piloting the program can result in a more favorable response.
  3. “I don’t like you.”  This source is personal.  Employees may lack trust and confidence in their leaders (or vice versa).   Managers may think their employees will goof off all day if they are not directly supervised.  Alternatively, employees may think their managers will hold it against them if they work remotely or work from home.    Obviously, this is the most difficult hurdle to overcome and takes much more time than the others.  Leaders can lead by example to show their commitment and publicly reward or recognize others that are demonstrating the right behaviors.  Good performance metrics can also help by removing any subjectivity of how people are measured. 

Whatever measures you take when implementing telework, remember that resistance is normal and to be expected.

Good luck!

 – Jason


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