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Overcoming Resistance, Ignorance and Denial in Change Management

written by: lisalisatong • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 5/25/2011

There are several factors which can severely impede progress when trying to overcome resistance in change management. Here, we'll take a look at some of these problems - resistance, ignorance and denial - and describe what proactive steps can be taken to counteract them.

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    Dealing with Resistance in Change Management

    Change by Felix Burton Wikimedia Commons When people hear change management in the workplace, their initial reaction is anxiety, reluctance and fear mixed with some curiosity. Change management is not something that should be taken lightly, by either management or the people involved. Overcoming resistance in change management can be a sensitive issue in deeply conditioned IT (or any) organizations that have functioned for so many years and want to continue functioning as they are – regardless of the outcomes. This 2-part series will touch on some suggestions you can try when implementing change management and change management strategies. The areas covered will include:

    • Resistance
    • Ignorance or Denial
    • Negativity

    Resistance

    One of the challenges of change management is resistance. Regardless of how clear and concise your change management plan is, you will find varying levels of resistance and people questioning the motive for change.

    Resistance (and almost rejection) is easily spotted in forms of direct or indirect challenges, lack of acknowledgment or action, open hostility or ignorance. To combat resistance, you first have to understand where the resistance is coming from and why. It is not as easy as sitting people down in a room to open up to you and explain why they think the change is unnecessary and a waste of time. A few techniques to try for overcoming resistance in change management include:

    • Get buy-in. When people accept and understand what is going on, they are more likely to act upon it. Getting buy-in is one of the most difficult things to achieve in relation to change management, but it is critical because it is the hurdle that either makes or breaks the project.
    • Use change agents. If you can identify a few key players who sit on the fence with change, they can better relate to the other resistant members and either fight with you or against you. You need these people on your side. It is crucial to get them to understand how this change will eventually help them better perform their job or how it benefits them.
    • Foster openness and two-way communication. Ask for suggestions on how this change can propagate. When people feel they have control of the situation, they are more likely to accept it. Not only that, everyone thinks their own suggestions are appropriate (or else they would not have suggested it in the first place), so actually consider using some of these suggestions.
    • Be transparent. It is human nature to fear what you don’t understand – especially if it seems like a threat to you. Be as transparent as possible. Start from the beginning and lay down all the details. No one will win and garner continual respect from secrecy. People will question you and managements’ motives if you are not completely transparent with your own organization.

    The challenges of change management include overcoming resistance to change management, but with these tips, you can be successful.

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    Ignorance or Denial

    Can We Change by CapeCard Ignoring change and pretending that it’s not happening is the most common and easiest approach of handling unwanted or misunderstood change. People are set in routines and attitudes and to avoid confrontation, will simply pretend it does not exist. They will continue with their day-to-day work as if nothing is happening.

    In instances where change management requires a change of process or best practices, you will require people to actually commit and do things differently. There is a mandate for attaining measured achievements, which need to materialize with the action of the team. How do you handle the awkward situation of assigning tasks or action items and no one follows through? A few techniques to try:

    • Involve management. Management must endorse and fully support the plan for change. It is difficult, if not impossible if you have resistance and ignorant managers who propagate their attitude to their subordinates. The change is probably mandated from the highest level (owners or executives) and it is their responsibility to filter the message down and get acknowledgment of their management team. This message must then be filtered down to the lowest level. Once management is involved, ensure that you communicate action items to both the worker and their manager to ensure there is accountability.
    • Communicate clearly and effectively. Communicate every detail required for action and in multiple directions. Follow up on the communication and get verbal and if possible, face-to-face acknowledgment. Effective communication is as important as the communication itself.
    • Remove barriers. In the minds of most people, change means more work. If you need something done, make sure the task is manageable and achievable and provide assistance where possible. One example is to create templates for people to fill out.When process changes are required or documented business practices are required, creating a template to take people out of the thinking phase and into the doing phase is easiest. What’s better is to print it out in hard-copy and physically sit down with the person to drill through it. This isn’t a long term solution, but it is a way to get the big bus moving. Be sure to report these activities to management so they are aware of these little (but big) steps forward.
    • Reward for actions. Reward those who take action and inform management. Recognition and appreciation are small tokens that can enable and encourage people to do more.

    You can follow the rest of this series by reading Part 2, which outlines several approaches for the challenges of change management to help you in overcoming obstacles in your change management strategies.

The Challenges of Bringing Change to an Organization and How to Overcome Them

Bringing change to an organization with a set culture and business processes has its own set of challenges. These challenges and some suggestions to overcome the introduction of change into an IT organization have been outlined here to help individuals and organizations move forward.
  1. Overcoming Resistance, Ignorance and Denial in Change Management
  2. Negativity in Change Management