I worry that I won't be able to handle objections to a change in a staff meeting. What can I do to overcome objections in that situation?

Be prepared for questions, if not outright resistance.

The surest way to overcome anticipated objections is to incorporate them into your announcement. Make your presentation and state any anticipated objections as though they are yours, then disprove each, one by one. You'll be amazed how many times potential objectors to the idea of a change will get into the spirit of the need for change and wind up supporting the plan.

If an objection is voiced, listen intently to it. Try to understand not only the objection but also the motivation behind it. Ask questions if you aren't clear about the problem.

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Even before you respond to the objection, compliment the objector for identifying either the reason for the proposed change or a problem with the change plan. For instance, "You're right—cost was an important factor in making this decision" or "Yes, we have a short timeframe in which to bring the new system on." Then, throw the objection back to the employee, encouraging him or her either to expand on his or her conclusion or to suggest how the change effort might be improved.

If rising costs is behind a policy change, you might ask the objector, "How much do you think we could save with this change?" If the schedule is tight, and it will be tough to meet, you might ask the objector, "What steps will be the most time-intensive?" or "Do you have some ideas about how we might save time?"

Don't become defensive or attack the questioner. Rather, focus on the statement or issue raised. With conviction, respond to the comment made. "If we can finish A within the first week, we should have more time to concentrate on B, and complete C and the entire project within the timeframe." Prepare your response to that question and subsequent questions, each time demonstrating how the change won't be negated by the objection. By winning these small battles, you should overcome most of the overt opposition to the change plan when you present news about a change

Before you close the meeting, confirm that you've handled the objections raised. "I believe I've handled all the questions. Are there any other concerns?"

What do I do if there are people on my staff adamantly opposed to the change?

To overcome resistance to change, you need to understand what prompts the people to resist the change.

Here is an action plan you should consider to reduce resistance and increase the likelihood of successful implementation:

1. Provide advance notice.

2. Communicate the why.

3. Role model your own commitment to the change.

4. Listen to what your employees say.

5. Get people involved.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

7. Identify hard-core resistance.

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The three major reasons for opposition to change are the following:

1. Scarcity of information. Fear of the unknown lies at the heart of much of the resistance. Strategies for change are often created by an isolated group, usually senior management, and employees have no way to gauge the impact the change will have on their positions (an immediate source of concern) or even how management expects them to implement the strategy.

2. Lack of input. Employees rarely embrace change when they are not involved in its planning.

3. Job insecurity. Change often challenges them to adopt new skills and abandon old habits, and sometimes directly endangers their jobs. Responsibilities may be increased, decreased, or shifted. More people may be needed, or fewer people may be sufficient.

Here are things you can do to help employees overcome their resistance to change:

Provide advance notice. If you know about a change in advance, notify your employees so they will have an opportunity to "get used to the idea."

Communicate the why. This addresses the first source of resistance—scarcity of information. Your employees will now understand why a change has to be made. Any stumbling blocks or potential disadvantages should be addressed. This procedure effectively diffuses feelings of being "out of control."

Role model your own commitment to the change. Your behavior will demonstrate to staff whether or not you see real benefits in the change being proposed. If they see that you are supportive of the plan, they are more likely to be supportive as well. Be careful when you do this; you may be perceived as putting down the current procedure, method, or approach, and there may be employees who may see this as a criticism of their current performance.

Listen to what your employees say. People need to feel that they can air their concerns and raise their questions without fear of retribution. Open discussions of the change can also reveal valid frustrations that, if addressed, may reduce resistance.

Get people involved. Give employees who might resent lack of input into the change the opportunity to have input in the implementation. When people feel involved in the process of change, they are more likely to be emotionally invested in it and will work toward making it a success.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Put an end to pernicious rumors about the change by making yourself available to people with questions about the change. If job security will not be affected—and you know that for sure—let your employees know this is so. Honest, open information can reduce stress and also resistance.

Identify hard-core resistance. Determine those most actively against the change. They will need special attention from you. If their opposition is so strong, and a one-on-one meeting with them in which you point out why their support is so important isn't effective, you may have to arrange a transfer out of your department or even consider terminating these otherwise hardworking employees.

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