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Managing resistance to change. How?

No matter how great the solution, managers often find themselves facing resistance to change among employees. In fact, often managers themselves resist the change, mistaking knowledge on why to change with the actual desire to do so. I often talk to managers that are frustrated by this double challenge, and having difficulties handling both their own doubts and being expected to also handle employees. How does one do that?

Firstly, as with all good dialogues, it´s about talking WITH people, not talking TO them. This means having the ability to listen to employees, asking questions and be truly interested in the answers, not just waiting to give an argument back. Too often I find that leaders that are under pressure move into a mode where they just tell people to DO, and expect them to behave accordingly. Unfortunately the human brain of an adult repels that kind of leadership. Research* shows that leaders think they coach, but observations reveal that they actually give instructions.

Sometimes dialogue will take time, something many leaders today feel they do not have. But failing to deal with resistance in an adequate way and to take time engaging with employees will eventually lead to the necessity to take even more time handling a change that is not happening. Leaders today are extremely fragmented in the way they work, research* shows, which makes them less effective.

In a work environment where more and more projects are about changing the way people work and behave, mastering change and being able to lead others through change is becoming increasingly more important for all leaders.

So what works? According to Prosci ** these are some of the top actions:

  • To have the right tools to handle resistance, all managers with employees affected by a change initiative needs training in change management.

  • Support from the project with FAQs and shared success stories.

  • Feedback from different channels provides good help as well as proactive communication and training in communication for managers.

What are your experiences on handling resistance to change?


*Research from Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm article in CIO 2017-02-03,

**Prosci Benchmarking report Edition 2016

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