Help Others Adapt to Change


When most people say they don’t mind change and they can adapt on the fly, they’re usually lying. What they actually mean is, “As long as I don’t have to change, you can change whatever you want.” Or, they mean, “I love change and I can totally deal with it…so long as I’m the one effecting change.”

People who are perceived to be against change or change-resistant are misunderstood creatures. So what’s the path of least resistance when it comes to working with someone like this?

Consider their personality type.

Personality types inform more than who we are and what we do. They also influence how we approach work – and how we react to change. The Platinum Rule identifies four personality types; the Director, the Thinker, the Relater, the Socializer. Use these personality types to guide your approach for coaching or

If your change-resistor is a Thinker, give him notice of the impending change or break it down into details. If she’s a Director, discuss the goals that the change will accomplish. If he’s a Relater, give him extra support to help him adjust. If she’s a Socializer, appeal to their expressive nature and share “war stories” about experiences with similar changes.

Understand why they’re resisting change.

Get to the root of the resistance. Have one-on-one conversations with your team, or your change-resistors, and just talk about it. Ask them how they feel about the change or get them talking about their workload. Eventually, you may end up getting to the root of the issue. Maybe your change-resistor is overwhelmed and approaching the Burnout Zone. Maybe he doesn’t understand what the change is. Maybe she’s having trouble seeing the benefits.

Once the root cause or an underlying issue has been identified, work with your change-resistor to put a plan together to help him/her move forward. That plan could be re-prioritizing or re-balancing their workload. It could also be a simple discussion to explain cause and effect. Acknowledging and recognizing your team member’s concern could go a long way in smoothing out their resistance.

If you’re someone who doesn’t adjust well to change, it’s easy for others to perceive you as being difficult or curmudgeonly. So what are some tips for reacting to change? These are the two strategies that have helped me the most.

Don’t take change personally.

Things don’t change because of something or anything you did. It’s not because that particular colleague or a new boss is out to get you. Change happens because of new ideas and/or different facts, not because of what any one person did or didn’t do. But if it feels that way, try to put a positive spin on it. Instead of thinking,  “We really screwed up,” approach it as “Someone noticed how we improved to overcome that challenge.”

Assume everyone has the best intentions.

In order for change to work and be effective, it also has to be purposeful. Change agents have different perspectives and while the changes they may be implementing are drastic, the changes actually do have a purpose. It may be hard to see that purpose or the final outcome but trust that your change agent knows what he/she is doing and that he/she won’t let their changes lead to failure.

If you can’t trust your change agent, trust your team. Whether it’s your leadership team or your peer group, everyone helps each other. Lean on them. Ask your leadership team to explain what prompted the change or what they envision will happen as a result of the change. Ask your peer group for their takes; you may not be the only one who doesn’t understand.

Change is inevitable. Some people can adapt to change in a heartbeat. Others may need help. Whichever type of person you are, wherever you stand in the hierarchy of change, having a little bit of patience will go a long way to making change management easier and smoother.

Meganne Lemon is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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