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How to Help Your Employees and Colleagues Embrace Change

Change is a constant in life, especially in the business world. Unfortunately, many workers are so paralyzed with fear at the thought of change that they are unable to implement anything that is lasting and meaningful. Before you can expect your employees and fellow business partners to accept change, you need to understand the motivation behind their fear. The reasons listed below are common roadblocks to people accepting change in the workplace.

What's in it for Me?

Even people who are normally altruistic in their personal lives are hesitant to enact change at work when they can't see how it benefits them personally. Without some expectation of reward, they quickly lose motivation and revert to the old way of doing things. The reward does not necessarily have to be monetary. For some people, simple recognition of their efforts is all that is needed to get them excited about a new way of doing things.

Fear of Making Mistakes

People become comfortable with the status quo because it means there is less of a chance of making an embarrassing error. When you expect employees to take a new approach to doing one or more aspects of their job, the learning curve starts all over again. You will gain credibility with your employees if you acknowledge this concern right off the bat. You also need to lower your expectations for awhile and allow your workers time to become proficient with what is now expected of them.

Poor Communication When Implementing the Change

There is nothing more frustrating for the average office worker than suddenly being expected to do things differently with no advance warning of the impending change. Your employee may get the message that the way he or she was performing the job wasn't good enough. Employees may also resent the fact that you didn't feel they were entitled to an explanation for why things must change. It is easier to avoid hard feelings in the first place by keeping the lines of communication open and implementing big changes in steps. If possible, avoid several major changes in a row.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most employees fear the loss of control when they are expected to do things differently. Since they will be the ones living with the new policies, seek input from your employees before springing a major change on them. You can help even the most resistant worker feel positive about the upcoming changes by involving him or her in the process. For example, ask a reluctant employee to make a list of the type of training he or she would like to see before the change is finalized.

Identifying Problem Behavior in Response to Your Leadership

Unfortunately, some employees have a passive-aggressive way of letting you know that they don't respect your leadership. You could have a discipline issue on your hands if any of the following occur with regularity:

  • Chronically arriving late for meetings
  • Audible sighs, rolling eyes and facial expressions that indicate displeasure
  • Not completing assigned tasks in a timely manner
  • Deliberately providing wrong information to jeopardize a work task
  • Putting off making decisions indefinitely

Even if you understand the rationale behind these actions, you can't tolerate them for long. If you do, other employees will get the idea that they don't have to respect you either. The key is to be empathetic to employees who resist change while being authoritative enough to let them know you have the final say.