If you are looking to introduce change into your workplace, it is important to understand what you might be up against. People have an intrinsic resistance to change. Whilst it is often said that fear of change (and they do), a 2010 study by the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas showed that it’s more than that. Beyond the fear, people also have a very strong (if subconscious) preference for things that have been around longer, believing that the longevity of a product, or a way of doing things, is indicative of how good it is. 

The study: Fear of change

Students were asked their preferences between: a) a university requirement that had been around for 100 years, or b) one that had been in existence for only 10 years. Regardless of the fact that the newer requirement could involve less work than the older requirement, the students displayed a pronounced preference for the longer standing requirement.

In a similar vein, people who were advised that acupuncture had existed for 2,000 years were much more in favour of the practice than those who were informed it had been around for only 250 years.*

What does this mean for you?

Whilst we live in a world where the ongoing rapid development of technology means we’re growing more accustomed to dealing with change, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are more accepting of it. You will face hardships and road blocks along the road to modernising your workplace.

So, what is the best way of getting the support of your team at work when you introduce brand new and unfamiliar ways of doing things?

Give your team the heads up

It is important to make sure that everyone who needs to know about the change is given some lead time in order to get their heads around it. This may seem like change management 101, but it’s surprising the number of times change is introduced to the people directly affected by it without their prior knowledge.

Even if they’re not a part of the decision-making process, if the change impacts upon even a minute of their day, let them know about it ahead of time. Otherwise, you’re only inviting their resistance.

Highlight that the new way is a help, not a hindrance

Your team need to believe that this new, unfamiliar way of doing things is not going to be a hassle or an additional roadblock to their productivity. Acknowledge that learning a new way of doing things may take a little time and be difficult at first, but then outline the ways in which the new process improves upon the old.

Emphasise the time and effort savings,  and what that will mean for their day-to-day lives in the workplace moving forward. Help them get excited about the new way of doing things by showing them, not just telling them, how it will be better.

Keep talking

You may have members of your team that openly embrace the change. Others may continue to be resistant and closed off to the possibilities the new process offers. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open, invite feedback, and address any criticisms with understanding and encouragement.

It is important for your team to know they are being heard; even when that doesn’t broker a reversion to the old way of doing things, simply being heard is often enough to help them come around to the new way.

The reality of the matter

Telling people not to be afraid of change and spouting inspirational quotes from Tony Robbins is not going to help your new process gain traction within your workplace.

Just as you have invested in the time it took to investigate your new way of doing things, so too do you need to invest in the time to both, build your teams enthusiasm, and dampen their resistance to change. It’s not impossible to overcome this inherent aversion to the new, but if you want to succeed, you need to face up to the fact that it is there, and deal with it accordingly.

For similar content on updating your workplace, check out Sines free ebook guide on how to streamline your workplace.

* Citation: Eidelman et al. 2010.