Managing organisational change during a pandemic (COVID-19) - reducing employee resistance:

How to gain employee co-operation to change

Covid-19 has now become synonymous with the word change. As a result of the global pandemic that is now more than a year old, many changes have come with adapting to the new norm. This 'new norm'has come in the form of more digitalised workspaces spaces being needed as a result of social-distancing requirements.

Changes, especially ones to do with technology are not effective if the employees of the organisation are not on board, which is why the topic of how to eradicate resistance to change from employees has to be one of the first things management thinks about when proposing any type of change in the organisation. This resistance can come in the form of employees not attending implementation meetings, sticking to “the normal way” of doing things, or any other behaviour that will not allow for the change in the organisation to prevail. It is for this reason that members of an organisation being on board with the change can be a determining factor to whether the proposed change is successfully implemented most effectively and efficiently.

Organisational development literature suggests a few key ways in which resistance can be reduced amongst employees when it comes to the proposed change. The suggested ways to reduce employee resistance to change are as follows;

- Education and communication:

When change is first proposed there are a lot of questions that run through an employee’s mind, such as; What does this change mean? How will it be done? Why are is this change being done? It is, therefore, important that communication with employees is established so that the reason and the need for the change can be seen and understood. Employees need to see why this change is needed and how it will not only benefit the organisation but them as well. Once employees see why the change is needed and how it will better affect their work effectiveness then they will be more likely to effect change.

- Participation:

The members of the organisation who are most opposed to change should include in the decision-making of the organisation with regards to the change that is happening. This could be done in ways such as asking for suggestions on a way of implementation or their view views on the new organisational structure. In doing so, the member will feel an increased sense of commitment to the change process and therefore resist the change.

- Facilitation and support:

Training and counseling should be offered for any new equipment, technology, and other tools used. In the instance, of virtual working, there should be training provided on the software that will be used before just commencing working virtually. By the employees being equipped to know how to use the new equipment resistance will be reduced.

- Negotiation:

Resistance can be dealt with by offering the members something they want that will result in them having a better acceptance of the change and therefore reducing the resistance. An example of this could be offering reward packages that could cater to the needs of the individual or an alternative workflow structure that will make their job more efficient.

With all this said, it is important to be aware of some of the unethical ways that resistance is combated to ensure an organisation stays clear from such practices. The first being; manipulation. Members can be manipulated into reducing their resistances in ways such as leaving out some facts that may not be liked by members to ensure a greater liking to the change. The other unethical way is coercion. The resistance which the members are exhibiting can be threatened or forced into a change with no option given. This may be in the form of threatening loss of promotion, giving bad job recommendations, and threatening to transfer the member. It is therefore important that organisations stay clear from such unethical practices as they may lead to a negative shift in the culture and behavior within the organisation.

Lastly, it is worth noting that these techniques are all highly influenced by the type of relationship the members have with their leaders. It is therefore important that management, organisational development specialist, leaders create a relationship with the members that will gain trust and respect in all situations such as change.

Once an organisation has successfully overcome employee resistance, it will be able to continue an effective change program for the betterment of any organisation. The change will now not only be supported by members of all levels of the organisation but also create excitement for the new change that will now have emerged. The type of excitement that can propel the organisation to reach their set goals and objectives and ultimately ensuring overall growth and success in these trying times.

Sources used for this blog post are;

  • Cummings and Worley

  • Furst and Cable

* Faith Ngobese is an intern at Form Development Consultant who describes herself as an "agent for change". This applies both professionally and socially as she has just finished her post-graduate studies in Organisational Development with a keen interest in change management. Also, she is the founder of the Sinethemba Disabilities Organisation, which seeks to create social change through raising disability awareness. She can be contacted at

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