Behavioral Reactions to Change

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Name the four behavioral reactions to change. Describe the behavioral signs of each reaction, and identify an organizational strategy for dealing with each reaction.

Change management is a set of processes employed to ensure that significant changes are implemented in a controlled and systematic manner. One of the goals of change management is the alignment of people and culture with strategic shifts in the organization, to overcome resistance to change in order to increase engagement and the achievement of the organization’s goal for effective transformation.

Achieving sustainable change begins with a clear understanding of the current state of the organization, followed by the implementation of appropriate and targeted strategies. The focus of change management is on the outcome the change will produce- the NEW arrangement that must be understood. A comprehensive change management strategy should lead to the desired objectives and create a sense of ownership, enable sustained and measurable improvement and build capability to respond to future change.

How employees perceive a change greatly affects how they react to it.

A. If employees cannot foresee how the change will affect them, they will resist the change or be neutral, at best.

B. If employees clearly see that the change is not compatible with their needs and aspirations, they will resist the change.

C. If employees see that the change is going to take place regardless of their objections; they may initially resist the change and then resignedly accept it.

D. If employees see that the change is in their best interests, they will be motivated to accept it.

In spite of attempts to minimize the resistance to change in an organization, some reactions to change are inevitable. Negative reactions may be manifested in overt behavior, or change may be resisted more passively.

People show four basic, identifiable reactions to change: These include

1. Disengagement
2. Disidentification,
3. Disenchantment
4. Disorientation.

Managers can use interventions to deal with these reactions.

Disengagement is psychological withdrawal from change. The employee may appear to lose initiative and interest in the job. Employees who disengage may fear the change but take on the approach of doing nothing and simply hoping for the best. Disengaged employees are physically present but mentally absent. They lack drive and commitment, and they simply comply without real psychological investment in their work. Disengagement can be recognized by behaviors such as being hard to find or doing only the basics to get the job done. Typical disengagement statements include “No problem” or “This won’t affect me.”

The basic managerial strategy for dealing with disengaged individuals is to confront them with their reaction and draw them out so that they can identify the concerns that need to be addressed. Disengaged employees may not be aware of the change in their behavior, and they need to be assured of your intentions. Drawing them out and helping them air their feelings can lead to productive discussions. Disengaged people seldom become cheerleaders for the change, but they can be brought closer to accepting and working with a change by open communication with an emphatic manager who is willing to listen.

Another reaction to change is disidentification. Individuals reacting in this way feel that their identity has been threatened by the change, and they feel very vulnerable. Many times they cling to a past procedure because they had a sense of mastery over it, and it gave them a sense of security. “My job is completely changed” and “I used to . . . . “are verbal indications of disidentification. Become involved in the change and establish a feeling of ownership in the process. When employees are allowed to participate, they are more committed to the change.

Another strategy for managing resistance is...
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