Change is the only constant thing in life and in business. Yet resistance to change is common. A manager needs to facilitate change within any organization as well as ensure the proper change management.
Resistance to Change
As a human being, we turn our perception into practice and practice into a habit. When any change is required in habit or practice or perception, we resist.
Resistance to change leads to unhappiness. Like many other things in life, we need to accept changes in the positive way.
Change can be initiated internally, or externally. Pandemic related changes are initiated externally, which was beyond anticipation long before the event. Therefore, the managers had to adapt to the changes imposed by the Government or the WHO.
COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis. It causes thousands of businesses to close operations forever. Millions of people have lost their jobs. It has changed the way businesses are run, office or operation is managed, and so on.
Example of Change
Let’s consider an example of change management. In the normal situation, the office hour of your organization was from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your organization has decided to change the working hours of your employees.
Now you have decided that half of your employees will work from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and the rest will from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM. What kind of resistance you expect from such change and using how can you implement this change successfully.
Reasons for Resistance to Change
Though these changes are good for all employees, yet there will be resistance. There are three types of resistance: Logical, Emotional, and Sociological. The possible resistance to such change in work hour are:
- There is a possibility that the office is contaminated in the first shift. As there is no break between two shifts there is no option to clean before the second shift. So, everyone would like to work in the morning shift.
- The morning shift starts at 8 am. That would require employees to wake up in the early morning. That will affect their sleeping habit.
- Employees will feel public transportation as unsafe. So, they would ask the company to provide an official transportation service.
- Office behavior is changed due to pandemic. Everyone needs to wear a mask all the time, clean hands after the regular intervals, maintain social distance, etc. Such new practices will require extra effort and practice. That will make the working environment less comfortable.
- The office will expose employees to the possibility of infection to COVID-19, which is a great risk for the employees as well as for the organization. The fear will create resistance.
- If the organization doesn’t provide official transportation, managing its own safe transportation will be expensive. That will increase the burden to employees.
- If the organization doesn’t have the culture to accept changes on a continuous basis, such a change in office time will generate resistance without any logic. That is the result of the tendency to low tolerance of change.
- Working in an office is made enjoyable with team discussion, group work, etc. Due to making 2 shifts, all of the employees will not be at the office at the same time. Therefore, employees will feel the lack of social interaction at the office.
- The reduced work hour will make some team (like the marketing team) work from home after office hours. Such teams will find the shift based office hour not suitable, and complicated to perform.
How to Manage Change?
Change management is one of the important tasks of any manager. It requires preparing, supporting, and helping individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change. Managers can play either proactive or reactive role in managing change.
Transformational Leadership refers to leadership that transforms. By leadership, the manager supports employees with resources, and work environment where employees act and achieve the goals of the organization.
According to Transformational leadership theory, a leader needs to work with teams to identify required change, create a vision that can guide the change with enthusiasm, and execute the change.
Using Transformational Leadership theory, you can take following steps to implement the change in working hour:
- Identifying the required changes: Identify the required changes, and how employees will resist those.
- Creating vision: Keeping the logical, emotional, or sociological aspects of resistance in mind, make a vision. For example, the vision statement can be, “Safety First with Growing Together”. The simple, and short vision is effective to convey all required messages. Please note this vision is simple to ensure the employees that safety is the first concern of the organization.
Yet we need to overcome this tough time. That is why we need to keep the organization running as much as possible. Ultimately, everyone will suffer if the organization shut down.
Finally, the word “Together” will create “we” feelings. Employees will be encouraged to think that organization is with the employees to fight against the pandemic.
- Communicating: Transformational leadership requires a charismatic person. A charismatic person appears confident in his/her own ideas, vision, and communication.
Such confidence increases the confidence in communication. Recipients also feel confident in the changes. So the communication of changes should be made in an online meeting with all employees.
If the team size were smaller, begin the session with an informal discussion about knowing the health of the team members, their family, and friends.
Then reinforce the best practices that everyone should follow to stay safe. After that describe the need for restarting the office with limited scope and following the changes in office hours and others.
Focus on the vision of “Safety First with Growing Together”. Describe how every team or every team member can contribute to that vision. Repeat how the organization would help in each step of the changes.
Finally, answer the possible questions proactively, before anyone raises that. Then ask for more questions.
- Stimulating learning: The changes due to COVID-19 require learning as discussed earlier. To stimulate learning, send several documents through email to all employees. Those can be:
1. Company’s policy on Safety and Hygiene factors related to pandemic
2. Supports provided by the company to implement the changes: such as disinfectant spray in every office room, mask at the entrance of the office, hand sanitizer, several self-serve tea corners, office transportation, flexible office hours etc.
3. Back up support for undesired events, such as group life insurance covering COVID-19 related diagnostic and hospitalization, contact tracing if any infection is found, etc.
- Coaching and reinforcing: Finally, reinforce the vision, and stimulate learning on a regular interval.
Change Management in Theory
The above plan for implementing change is following the change model of Lewin.
- Unfreezing: the need for change is felt through media, and in official communication
- Changing: the changes are described with empathy and vision. The communication is supported with a personal touch, the charisma of the leader, “we” feelings, and confidence of the leader.
- Refreezing: the changes are supported by additional communication, follow up, and reinforcement
Moreover, the above implementation plan is justified with:
- It covers the step of building support for changes
- It supports the collegial model of an organization where the group of people works to achieve together
- The plan ensures participation of resistant and proves enough logic behind the change
- The communication is clarified in written emails, official practices, etc.
- Employee’s need for security is put on top yet ensuring the organization’s goals
Change management is also part of any new business. Moreover, this is highly common in start-ups.
Changes related to COVID-19 are unavoidable. The employees are well communicated with the need for change. Yet there will be resistance to the changes.
The plan described above helps in the successful implementation of the change following the transformational leadership theory.