Convert resistance into support when implementing software

Managing user resistance can be challenging and there can be many reasons for this resistance. However, it would be wrong to treat users as if…

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Learning Services

March 10, 20235 minutes read

Managing user resistance can be challenging and there can be many reasons for this resistance. However, it would be wrong to treat users as if they are the problem and then to develop a defense mechanism around their resistance. It is rather, an opportunity to help people transition through the change. It is an opportunity for sponsors and leaders to deepen their relationship with their people.

The most important question to answer is: “What’s in it for me?”. In other words, “What is the added value?” An organization implementing software can enumerate the benefits for it quite easily. It will be something like compliance, data security, automation, or cost saving.

But successful organizational change = successful individual change. Therefore, there must be a good answer to the question “Why should I go through the painful process of un-learning the old and embracing the new?”

In this series of three blogs, we are going to consider the following seven key points that help us not only to manage resistance but to convert resistance into support:

  1. Consider resistance as a natural reaction to change
  2. Distinguish between hesitancy and resistance
  3. Detect signs of resistance
  4. Identify the root causes of resistance
  5. Manage resistance
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  7. Convert resistance into support

1. Consider resistance as a natural reaction to change

Resistance is a normal, natural response to change, and is usually the first part of the change process.

The first key word is perception. If the change is perceived as harmful, this often generates a strong resistance to change.

The second key word is threat. People who are affected by change experience emotional turmoil, even when changes are positive or rational in nature. Thus, the threat needs not be real or large for resistance to occur.

2. Distinguish between hesitancy and resistance

Hesitancy is a failure to act because of uncertainty or anxiety. When teams experience pushback from employees, they may conclude that the group is resistant. But think of resistance as a factor or spectrum. One end is hesitation, and the other end is full refusal. Where is the issue on the spectrum? What is therefore the right level of resolution?

3. Detect signs of resistance

It is not always easy to detect signs of resistance unless it is full refusal. The following symptoms can be signs of resistance, sometimes easy to observe and overt, but sometimes hidden and covert:

  • Complaints and gossip
    Gossip is a natural reaction to expressing dissatisfaction over change. When there is resentment in the air, gossiping is increased among employees. Sometimes they lack any proper forum or channel to share their thoughts on the change. In this case they usually share their feeling among each other. 
  • Absenteeism
    Are people not attending key meetings? Are they joining late and leaving early, taking off days? A reason might be resistance, but it could also be something in their private life leading to not showing up.
  • Breakdown in communication
    Poor communication is a sign of resistance to change. Those resisting are the least interested in what is being communicated in meetings or other formal channels. They start to misinterpret messages given by leaders and ignore directions given to them.
  • Not providing requested information or resources
    When employees resist change, they are often no longer responsive to emails and sharing information or resources.
  • Low morale
    When employees are reluctant to accept change, they show low morale and energy. They become more lethargic and less motivated to take on challenges of new working ways. This low energy is very contagious and can spread to other team members.
  • Decision paralysis
    Employees begin to take longer to make day-to-day decisions related to their work. They may be covertly resisting change which can hamper them in taking quick decisions.
  • Avoidance of new assignments
    If affected stakeholders don’t have interest in and remain indifferent to change, they won’t explore new opportunities, accept new roles and tasks to embrace the change. They don’t want to leave their comfort zone. They only see the downside of change.
  • Reduction in productivity
    Low productivity is a consequence of the above.  When employees don’t feel motivated about taking up new working methods or roles and responsibilities then they’ll be less productive at work. They very often miss deadlines and take longer than usual to complete the tasks at hand.

Managing resistance is ineffective when it simply focuses on the symptoms. You need to find out the root causes. We will consider this in the next blog.

Do you need to adopt IM technology and help people transition through the change? OpenText™ Learning Services can help advise how to get the most from a change management program.

Explore the OpenText Adoption Strategy Development FasTrak.

To find out more, please contact us.

Samuel Peuker is a Senior Manager within Learning Services, certified as a Prosci® Change Practitioner and a Business Analyst in several OpenText Products such as Content Server and Extended ECM. He is passionate in helping to drive OpenText solution adoption where the user-side of change is the most important aspect. Visit him on LinkedIn

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Learning Services

Empowering OpenText customers and partners with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to drive enterprise information management excellence. Learning Services programs leverage intellectual property and global domain expertise gained over 20 years enabling the team to deliver a high-quality learning experience on OpenText solutions. As a comprehensive learning partner, the team provides continuous and flexible learning, certification, industry-proven practices, and access to the right experts and skill development throughout the learning journey.

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