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How do I Get Commitment to a Change from my Staff?

Begin with your self. What was your first reaction when you heard about the change? Was it fear or elation? Was it confusion or understanding? Are you looking forward to the change or are you worried about its effect on the status quo? Your employees are likely to feel as you do about the change. You need to ensure they understand not only the nature of the change but its ramifications on the work they do.

Meet with your staff as soon as the plans are made public to answer employee questions and undo any misconceptions. Observe the members of your group as you discuss the change with them. How are members of your staff reacting? Don’t assume that silence is a positive response. It can be a sign of uncertainty, passive resistance, or active opposition to the idea.

Would involving your employees in decisions related to the change as well as to its implementation reduce resistance to the change? The more that people feel they can contribute and make a difference, even in the face of change, the more positive they will be about the change process. Those who feel powerless are more likely to feel victimized.

Tell Me More

If there is one point not to forget when telling employees about a change, it is the need to make a compelling case for it. Many change experts attribute the failure of change initiatives to a lack of sense of urgency about the need to change. There is often too much emphasis on the who, what, when, and where and too little on the why of a change plan.

Such sense of urgency needs to be balanced with feelings of personal confidence that the employees are capable of turning the situation around. Creativity and risk taking are less likely in an environment of fear.

Since change means risk, you must expect that mistakes will be made. But your message, in the face of mistakes, must be that the only failure you’re concerned about is the failure to try anything at all. Besides, problems routinely occur with any change initiative. Solving those problems may generate other problems, which will cause further problems. That is just the nature of change. All you can do is to address each problem calmly as it occurs.

Another way to get cooperation and support is to begin your change efforts where you are less likely to encounter problems. At the same time, you want to begin with a bold step. Gradual introduction of a change effort is likely to generate the least opposition but it also tends to give the impression that the change agent really isn’t committed to the idea. About 50 percent of those who hear about a change are undecided at first, and too weak a start or too much flexibility early on can prompt them ultimately to side against the change, joining the 20 percent who are adamantly opposed to the change.

Most change initiatives begin with about 30 percent in favor due to the logic of the argument or their awareness of the personal benefits from the change.