By Folashade Adehinle

Managing change means managing people’s fear. Change is natural and good, but people’s reaction to change is unpredictable and irrational. It can be managed if done right. Change can be upsetting to employees. It can cause failures, loss of production, or falling quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of the organization as change. History is full of examples of organizations that failed to change and that are now extinct. The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the employees, is definition and understanding.

Resistance to change comes from a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss. The front-end of an individual’s resistance to change is how they perceive the change. The back-end is how well they are equipped to deal with the change they expect. An individual’s degree of resistance to change is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how severe they expect the impact of the change to be on them. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the person has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system.

A leader has to address employees’ resistance from both ends to help reduce it to a minimal, manageable level.


There is the need to define the change for the employee in as much detail and as early as you can. Provide updates as things develop and become clearer. In the case of the desk that has to be moved, tell the employee what’s going on. “We need to bring in more workers. Our sales have increased by 40% and we can’t meet that demand, even with lots of overtime. To make room for them, we’ll have to rearrange things a little.” You could even ask the employees how they think the space should be rearranged. You don’t have to accept their suggestions, but it’s a start toward understanding.

Definition is a two-way street. In addition to defining the problem, you need to get the employees to define the reasons behind their resistance.


Understanding is also a two-way street. You want people to understand what is changing and why. You also need to understand their reluctance.

  1. You have to help your people understand. They want to know what the change will be and when it will happen, but they also want to know why. Why is it happening now? Why can’t things stay like they have always been? Why is it happening to me?
  2. It is also important that they understand what is not changing. Not only does this give them one less thing to stress about, it also gives them an anchor, something to hold on to as they face the winds of uncertainty and change.
  3. You need to understand their specific fears. What are they concerned about? How strongly do they feel about it? Do they perceive it as a good or a bad thing?

Don’t try to rationalize things. Don’t waste time wishing people were more predictable. Instead, focus on opening and maintaining clear channels of communication with your employees so they understand what is coming and what it means to them. They will appreciate you for it and will be more productive both before and after the change