By Julia Menaul
Why Can't We Go Back to Normal?

Why Can't We Go Back to Normal?

I wrote this piece just after the financial crisis in 2009 and it was entitled “Why can’t we go back to 2008?”

I updated it in 2013.

Reviewing it in 2020 as we face the Coronavirus crisis it seems strangely apposite.

 

Here is the original inside the box………….

The recent debacle enfolding from the Grangemouth Refinery and Unite Union’s response to this shows us that resistance to change is alive and well in 2013.

In fact, research presented by Professor Phil Taylor, the University of Strathclyde at the Manchester Industrial Relations Society on 17 October 2013 entitled:

 Performance Management – The ‘not so new’ Workplace Tyranny showed us that even though the world has changed vastly since 2008, there is an element of the workforce who are just saying:

 

 ‘Can’t we just get back to normal?’

 

Professor Taylor pointed out that this particular crisis was:

 

“Not just a turn of the business cycle but a redrawing of the political-economic landscape”

 

So why do people resist?

 The most common reasons why people resist change are:

 

1.  A desire not to give up something of value

 

2.  A misunderstanding of the change and its implications

 

3.  A belief that the change does not make sense for the organization

 

4.  Low tolerance for change

 Resistance is often managed effectively if it is recognised early in the change process. The following are guidelines for dealing with resistance to change:

 

 

Method

 

Effect

Use when

Education and communication

 

 

Creates a willingness to help with the change

 

 

People do not have adequate information or have inaccurate information

 

Participation and involvement

 

 

Widens active participation and builds commitment to change

 

 

When individuals or groups have important information and possibly also the power to resist the planned change

 

Facilitation and support

 

 

Addresses specific emotional and support requirements

 

 

Resistance is usually due to adjustment problems resulting from the proposed change

 

Negotiation and agreement

 

 

Helps avoid major resistance to change

 

 

An individual or a group will lose something significant because of the change

 

Explicit and implicit coercion

 

 

Quick results in overpowering resistance

 

 

Crisis situation. Time is of the essence. Change

agent has power

 

 

 

In 2020, many of the suggestions in the table above are still applicable.

 Below I have added another category to reflect the Covid19 crisis:

Method

 

Effect

Use when

How this looks during Coronavirus crisis?

 

Education and communication

 

 

Creates a willingness to help with the change

 

 

People do not have adequate information or have inaccurate information

 

Conflicting info that rapidly changed by the hour means to communicate more in a variety of methods (not just email) and saying when you don’t know!

 

Participation and involvement

 

 

Widens active participation and builds commitment to change

 

 

When individuals or groups have important information and possibly also the power to resist the planned change

 

 

Give people control/influence over as much as possible (even if only small things) in order to give a sense of autonomy.

Facilitation and support

 

 

Addresses specific emotional and support requirements

 

 

Resistance is usually due to adjustment problems resulting from the proposed change

 

 

Facilitate meetings to just talk about emotions and to normalise them for all, including the leader

Negotiation and agreement

 

 

Helps avoid major resistance to change

 

 

An individual or a group will lose something significant because of the change

 

 

Highlight what they will retain from the old world and build excitement for new ways of working by showing how it will be better.

Explicit and implicit coercion

 

 

Quick results in overpowering resistance

 

 

Crisis situation. Time is of the essence. Change agent has power.

 

 

Be clear on non-negotiables (just do it!) but also what bits they can do themselves.

 

 

So, what can you do practically as a manager?

 A desire not to give up something of value – why is it valued? What else would be of value instead?

 A misunderstanding of the change and its implications – communicate, communicate, communicate!

 A belief that the change does not make sense for the organization – help them explore what was wrong (for them) in the old system and how it could be different for them and the organization.

A low tolerance for change – use bite sized chunks of change, allow emotion to be verbalized and show empathy but encourage rational thinking to dampen down the brain’s amygdala response.


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Julia Menaul

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