4 Ways to Help People Be Less Resistant to Change at Work

People’s resistance to positive change can negatively affect productivity and profitability.

Here are 4 ways to help people be more agile, open to change and less resistant..

#1 – Accept their Resistance

That may seem counterintuitive but it works. It’s common for people to complain and resist an unwanted or unexpected change. Maybe it’s a software upgrade, new policy, budget cut or renovation. Trying to intellectually convince someone to stop resisting or complaining, usually backfires. The instinctual brain is in control here. The first step is to show compassion and acceptance of people’s reactions, as in “I totally understand why you’re resistant to this, it’s inconvenient, not your ideal choice….”. Validate their intention even if you don’t agree with it.

#2 – Change Your Physicality

Say you’re talking to a group of people. Invite everyone to stand up, and maybe sit in a new location, or in some way move their body. The instinctual brain tends to lose it’s grip. Here’s a short, fun video clip explaining this phenomenon using the metaphor of the roller coaster: https://youtu.be/4x47xhHlsTo

#3– Ask Them a Transformational Question

Transformational questions can break people free of a limiting perspective. One such question is…“If you were an expert at solving this issue, what would you do that you’re not doing now?”

For example, in one company we worked with, many people considered themselves “technophobes”. With a new piece of software, there were lots of error messages. If the tech guy was unavailable, they would get upset and stop the work process. The team leader asked them to play a game. He said “If you were a tech expert, what would you do that you’re not doing now?”

The results were astounding. For example, one person said, “I would paste the error message into my search engine and see if I can find a solution.”  Most tech experts would roll their eyes and think “of course!”. But these people didn’t view themselves that way until asked that question. After that, they started handling many of their own tech issues.

#4 – Get them Focused on the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”

Humans tend to default to the negative. Plus we are hardwired to hold onto what’s familiar, even if it’s causing problems. I had a client who refused to adopt the online work share system. He liked working on team projects using paper. His colleagues, however, were scattered across the country. While everyone else was chatting and sharing documents online, he was trying to send faxes. As a result, he got left out of the loop often and his work suffered.

We all have areas where we are holding on inappropriately, in big ways and small. What helps a person let go is usually to inspire them with the new possibility, trigger their imagination of how life could be better on the other side of the change.

In his case, a techy colleague walked him through the work share system proving the time saving benefits. No one had done that with him yet. Everyone else on the team was a digital native and jumped into the new system right from the start. He was a digital immigrant (meaning he didn’t grow up with digital technology. He needed an interpreter and a guide so he could get a hands on experience. And he happily adopted the new system after that.

What steps could you take to help people be more agile at work?


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