Common Scenarios When Facing Resistance to Change

organizational-resistanceWhen implementing telework or flexible work arrangements, it’s common to run into resistance.  There are usually some common scenarios when it comes to resistance and some common solutions or actions you can take to turn things in your favor.  Here are a couple:

Scenario 1: “I don’t report to you”

What happens:  You are the program manager trying to institute change (i.e. getting your organization to adopt telework or flexible work arrangements).  You and the stakeholders that are resisting the change all report into the same champion.  The stakeholders refuse because they don’t report to you.  There’s no consequences for not listening to you.

What you should do:  The answer to this one may seem obvious: you need to get the champion to be more directive with the other members of the management team that are not following through.  However, this is not schoolyard tattling to the person in charge.  That will only deepen the divide and cause some passive aggressive behavior among the stakeholders.  Keep your champion informed on the progress of the entire organization.  Ask for some airtime during team meetings, management reviews, or all employee meetings.  Ensure the champion is publicly advocating the change and rewarding those that are making progress. A little attention from the boss goes a long way.

Scenario 2: “Your champion is not my boss”

What happens:  This is a slight variation of the first scenario but in this case the stakeholders you are trying to influence have a completely different reporting structure.   Again, there’s no consequences for noncompliance.

What you should do:  In this situation you’ll have to rely more on your marketing and selling skills.  You need to develop supporting sponsors in the organization you are trying to influence.  You’ll need to target both senior and middle management, and may need different approaches for both.  The business case, especially the what’s-in-it-for-them piece, will have to be compelling.  Also, you need to clearly outline the risk if they do nothing and maintain the status quo.

Scenario 3: “I don’t care what the boss says”

What happens:  The champion has required the change to happen but local management is resisting, ignoring the champion .  Proximity trumps seniority and people follow the direction of their immediate supervisors.

What you should do:  This is probably one of the most scenarios I see.  Senior management supports the change, or at least provides public lip service, but middle managers aren’t buying it.  A little peer pressure can help.  Try running a pilot to demonstrate how it will work and the practical results to create some allies within the organization and gradually expand the program.  Good individual and organizational performance metrics are must.  This should help drive the business case and provide evidence of the benefits.  Also, ensure senior management is walking the walk and setting the right example themselves.

Do you have a common scenario for resistance in your organization or have a tip?  Let me know.

– Jason

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