Problem of overcoming resistance to change can be handled at two levels:-
- At the individual level.
- At the group level through group dynamics.
1. Efforts at the Individual Level
The management can use the following strategies to overcome resistance by the people and to introduce changes successfully:
- Participation and Involvement: Individual will find it difficult to resist the change which they participated. Prior to making a change, all those persons who are going to the affected by the change, can be brought into the decision making process. Their doubts and objectives should be removed to win their cooperation. Getting opinions out in the open, so that they are looked at and evaluated is an important trust building task. This involvement of the workers can overcome resistance, obtain personal commitment and increase the quality of the change decisions. But this method may lead to a lot of time consumption as well as it may be a potential for poor solutions.
- Effective Communication: Inaccurate information can be a reason for the resistance to change. An appropriate communication program can help in overcoming this resistance. Workers can give necessary education about the change, its process and its working through training class, meeting and conferences. The reasons about change must be communicated very clearly and without ambiguity. Communication can help dissipate some fear of unknown elements. Management should also see that there is a two way communication between the management and workers so that the so former comes to know about the reactions of the latter directly without delay. All this will help persuade employees about the necessity of change and once persuaded they may actively want to have the change.
- Facilitation and support: Change agents can offer facilitation and supportive efforts to overcome resistance. Facilitative support means removing physical barriers in implementing change by providing appropriate training, tools, machinery etc. Supportive efforts include listening, providing guidance, allowing time off after a difficult period and providing emotional support. Emotional support is provided by showing personal concern to the employees during periods of stress and strain. The drawback of this method is that it is time consuming and expensive and its implementation offers no assurance of success.
- Leadership: Leadership plays an important role in overcoming resistance to change. A capable leader can reinforce a climate of psychological support for change. Greater the prestige and credibility of the person who is acting as a change agent, the greater will be the influence upon the employees who are involved in the change process. A strong and effective leader can exert emotional pressure on his subordinates to bring about the desired change. Most of the times, there is no resistance from the subordinates and if they resist, the leader tries to overcome resistance by leadership process.
- Negotiation and Agreement: Negotiation and Agreement technique is used when costs and benefits must be balanced for the benefit of all concerned parties. If people or groups are losing something significant in the change and if they have enough power to resist strongly. Negotiation before implementation can make the change go much more smoothly, even if at the later stages if some problems arise, the negotiated agreement can be referred to.
- Manipulation and Co-optation: This method is used in the situation, where other methods are not working or are not available. Managers can resort to manipulation of information, resources and favors to overcome resistance. Or they can resort to co-optation which means to co-opt an individual, perhaps a key person with in a group, by giving him a desirable role in designing or carrying out the change process. This technique has some doubtful ethics and it may also backfire in some cases.
- Coercion: Managers may resort to coercion if all other methods fail or for some reason are inappropriate. Coercion may be in form of explicit or implicit threats involving loss of jobs, lack of promotion and the like. Managers sometimes dismiss or transfer employees who stand in the way of change. Coercion can seriously affect employee’s attitudes and have adverse consequences in the long run.
- Timing of Change: Timing of introduction of change can have a considerable impact on the resistance. The right time will meet less resistance. Therefore, management must be very careful in choosing the time when the organizational climate is highly favorable to change. An example of right time is immediately after a major improvement in working conditions.
2. Efforts at the Group Level
A group is a cluster of persons related in some way by common interests over a period of time. Members of the group interact with each other and develop group cohesiveness among themselves. That is why although change can be obtained individually; it is more meaningful if it is done through group. Therefore, management should consider the group and not the individual as the basic unit of change. Group dynamics offer some basic help in the regard.
Darwin Cartwright has identified the following characteristics of group as a means of overcoming resistance to change:
- If both the change agent and the people target for change belong to the same group, the role of group is more effective.
- If the people have more cohesiveness and strong belonging to the group, change is easier to achieve.
- The more attractive the group is to the numbers, the greater is the influence of the group to accept or resist a change.
- Group can exert pressure on those factors of the members which are responsible for the group being attractive to the members. Normally attitudes, values and behaviour are more common factors determining the group attractiveness.
- The degree of prestige of a group, as interpreted by the members will determine the degree of influence the group has over its members.
- If any attempt is made to change any individual or some individuals who deviates the group norms there is likelihood of the change attempt being resisted by the group.
Thus, the management should consider the group as the basic unit of change. Group interactions should be encouraged; it should be provided full information by the management. The management should also explain the rationale of change and try to convince that the interests of the group members would not be adversely affected. Group dynamics also help in providing various training programmers for accepting and implementing change.