Minimizing Resistance to Organizational Change

Resistance to change be those affected is often the single most formidable obstacle to its successful realization. It is to be understood at the outset that resistance to change is not, the fundamental problem to be solved. Rather, any resistance is usually a symptom of more basic problems underlying the particular situation. To focus the attention of symptom alone will achieve at best only limited results. The effective solution is that one must look beyond the symptom that is resistance to its more basic causes. It is quite appropriate and practicable for a manager to focus on situational and environmental factors that cause resistance. Many of these are directly within management’s control. Probably, efforts to minimize any resistance should be undertaken while it is still potential rather than real. There are different methods that the managers can use to minimizing resistance to organizational change.

Minimizing Resistance to Organizational Change

Fundamentally, there are only two strategic options available for minimizing resistance to organizational change. One is to increase the pressure that can overcome resistant behavior. The other is to reduce the very force that cause resistance.

Compulsion Threats and Bribery

In the first strategy, the act of resistance itself is attacked directly. The causes or reasons for resistance are ignored. Thus, only the symptoms are addressed. For example, managers using their authority can threaten subordinate with disciplinary actions. But such compulsions could create counter measures that would prevent or delay the change from taking place. The change could even be sabotaged to such an extent that no benefits would be realized. Sometimes, in discriminate offers of pay increase to lure subordinates into accepting change can also fail to produce lasting benefits. This can happen when the reasons for resistance are primarily non-economic. Such actions attack the resistance rather than its causes. New problems are created and nullify any potential benefit from change. Therefore, the strategic option that aims directly at overcoming resistance itself, whether by threat or bribery, is both unwise and undesirable. The consequences of such approach will be to reduce rather than increase the possibilities for successful implementation of a change. Therefore, management should reject outright the use of either threats or bribery as methods for reducing resistance.

Persuasion, Rewards and Bargaining

The second strategic option of reducing the forces that cause resistance is more promising. The offers of appropriate rewards, can reduce the resistance. By attracting the root causes rather than symptoms, managers can improve the probabilities for bringing about change successfully. Offering a reward that is relevant to a specific reason for resistances can be a powerful lever in providing employees with an incentive to accept a change. Rewards can either monetary or non-monetary. Monetary rewards result in greater annual total compensation. Often when a change alters the content of individual job interms of increased responsibilities, mental and physical effort required, education and experience needed, an increase in the rate of payment can be justified. Increased compensation may be justified if the change cause an individual or group to enhance contributions to company profits. The monetary reward can be in the form of fringe benefits such as improved pension scheme, a better holiday or sickness protection plan, or an enhanced medical insurance programme. When the people affected believe that an unintended change will somehow increase the value of what they are being asked to do, they are more vulnerable to feeling of unfair treatment. A broad variety of non-monetary rewards can be offered because the needs they might satisfy range widely. For example, concern about threat and status might be met with an offer of a more impressive job title, better perks, changing the pattern of personal interactions and education and training. When the work is reorganized or the relationships within a group are restructured, the relevant reward might be more satisfying social relationships in the work situations and the opportunity to gain greater satisfaction from the work itself. Opportunity for education and training might be perceived as a way to enhance one’s opportunities for personal development within the organization. The technique of bargaining is a variation of the use of persuation through rewards. The bargaining is a process based on discussion between management and those affected by a change and their union representatives. In this process, management’s objective is to gain acceptance of their proposals. Management is in no way committed in advance to accept any proposal made by the group with whom discussions are held. There is, however, an implicit understanding that management might accept some of the proposals put forward by the group in exchange for the group’s acceptance of what management wants. In a sense, then, any concessions or compromises made by management in bargaining can be considered similar to the offer of rewards. The essence of bargaining is compromise. To maximize the achievement of their goals and the satisfaction of their needs, both the management and those affected by a change must give way to some of the points on which they would have to secure agreement. It is crucial that the management give careful and open-minded consideration to every complaint and grievance. In doing so, they must recognize that the employees and the union’s perception of the change are often distinctly different from their own. Typically such differences are based on the fact that management, the union and the employees have different priorities, values and concerns. Persuading employees to accept a change depends on the offer of rewards as a lever. This can be done either unilaterally or within the framework of bargaining. The success of the approach depends on how effectively management

  • Matches rewards offered (both monetary and non-monetary) to their employee’s needs and goals,
  • Gives serious consideration to all complaints and suggestions and
  • gives some concession in order to achieve the major portion of their objectives.

Security and Guarantees

The most effective means for management to minimize feelings of insecurity, and in particular fears of redundancy, is to guarantee that such fears are groundless. Management can use as a lever, a pledge that there will be no redundancy as a consequence of a specific change. This can often make possible its acceptance. Implementing such a pledge can be a challenging task for the management. Essentially there are six ways in which a pledge of no redundancy in a changing situation can be redeemed.

  • Not replacing by engagement from outside the company anyone who leaves the organization in a natural course of events (e.g., people who retire, are sacked, die or resign voluntarily).
  • Reabsorbing work being done by subcontractors and reassigning any surplus employees to that work.
  • Retraining redundant employees and transforming or upgrading them to their work.
  • Reducing or eliminating any overtime work.
  • Absorbing additional work resulting from business growth with no new additions to the workforce until all those who are surplus have been productively re-employed.
  • Investing and implementing new areas of business activity.

Another way is to assure the employee of a guarantee of a continued income until he is working in another comfortable job, either within or outside the company. In this approach, the management undertakes to help each surplus individual find another suitable job. If this cannot be accomplished within the company, assistance with outplacement can be provided. Until this occurs, the employee’s income would continue to be maintained by the company as a supplement to any unemployment benefits. Somehow, maintaining income cannot guarantee no redundancy. Although employee might feel secure about the continuity of income they would nevertheless feel uneasy about the impending change in their personal lives. They would undoubtedly have many unanswered questions and apprehensions about new jobs and new environments. Because of these apprehensions they may still resist the change, although perhaps less intensely than if they were to be made redundant with no guarantees of any kind. A person’s feeling of insecurity can also be heightened if there is fear about inability to perform adequately in the new situation. Management can do much to reduce this fear by use of training. A carefully designed program of training can often help to make the change successful. This means matching the training provided to the true needs of the people involved. It also means providing training in a way that engages and motivates. Training programs can yield another benefit as well. The very act of establishing one provides evidence that management is doing everything possible to help those involved cope with the change. Such a reassuring demonstration of management’s support should reduce the feeling of insecurity so often associated with feeling of inadequacy.

To lessen any feeling of insecurity from factors other than fear of redundancy or inadequacy, management can engage their employees in discussion. Those involved in the discussions can develop a realistic understanding of the change and its probable consequences. Such understanding can do much to dispel any fear resulting from misunderstanding or lack of information.

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