Change can be difficult for organizations. The fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of failure, disruption of relationships, certain personalities and internal politics are the main reasons for rejecting change. In order to manage change, the company needs to offer communication, support and participation.

Employees and Change

Intestinal Distress Taco Restaurant’s employees just received some disturbing news. The CEO has decided to change all the restaurants from Mexican food to a burger menu. The restaurants will be closed for one month while the stores are overhauled and the employees are trained on the new menu. Goodbye, Intestinal Distress Taco, and hello, Burger Queen. Upper management realizes that they have a battle on their hands to get the store management to accept the new changes. Employee behavior and attitudes regarding a change can drastically affect change efforts.

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Intestinal Distress Taco’s drastic change is going to create some major issues with parts of the employee population. Some managers will feel that their psychological contract, or internal commitment to the success of the restaurant, has been violated. There are many reasons why employees will resist change. Burger Queen has hired a consultant named Agent Change to help employees accept the radical new restaurant theme.

Resistance to Change

There are numerous reasons that can cause an individual to resist change in an organization. The fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of failure, disruption of relationships, certain personalities and internal politics are the main reasons for rejecting change. Some employees just hate any type of change. They fear the unknown and worry that the change will make the situation worse. This usually occurs when change is implemented with little corporate communication. Some restaurant managers regard the Burger Queen change in this manner, because they are not sure of what exactly will become of the restaurants. They are afraid that they will have no customers. Agent Change has the solution. He has educated the managers about how other Burger Queen stores have quadrupled the income of the old taco theme. Some employees actually mourn the possibility of losing something valuable.

The fear of a loss is another behavioral reaction to change. Employees always worry that change will cause them the loss of their job. Many employees worry about losing their position in the company during mergers or acquisitions. Agent Change has tried to avoid this issue by communicating that there would be no layoffs during the transition.

Some of the employees will have some challenges ahead due to a heavy workload. An increased workload or different job responsibilities (due to an organizational change) can lead to a fear of failure. Employees may be against the change because they do not have the confidence in tackling a more difficult workload. Companies need to support any changes by supplying excellent training for their employees. Burger Queen has agreed to close all of the restaurants for a month to ensure that all employees are comfortable and well trained regarding the new menu. Agent Change will be visiting each newly-themed restaurant to help train employees with ‘Buntastic’ classes.

Another reason employees can be resistant to change is due to concern over the disruption of relationships. Many employees enjoy both the social and work relationships of co-workers and customers. Change inevitably can affect both types of relationships. Automation improvements sometimes remove the human element of interaction.

For example, Intestinal Distress Taco Restaurant had an open kitchen with table service, which allowed employees and customers to intermingle. The new Burger Queen restaurant is a closed kitchen with numerous new automations – replacing human workers. In addition, there is no waiter/waitress needed, as the food is picked up by the customer when a number is called out. Burger Queen realizes that this is one of the biggest issues facing employees. Agent Change has suggested that any employee whose job is being replaced with automated equipment will be placed elsewhere in another restaurant; so, no one will lose their job.

Some employees have personalities that are more prone to embracing change than others. Certain personalities adapt better to change than others. Agent Change has made managers aware that it’s important to be considerate to those employees who are having a difficult time with the change.

Lastly, internal politics can affect how the change is received by employees. Certain employees who were stars or favorites might not excel as easily in the new restaurant setup. This can cause friction. Agent Change has suggested that threats, intimidation or playing favorites needs to be removed from all aspects of the new company.

Managing Resistance

According to Agent Change, there are some specific tasks that Burger Queen needs to include in the change process to ensure a success. The company needs to offer communication, support and participation. This can be accomplished by listening and responding to feedback. In addition, rationale for all changes needs to be explained fully to the workforce. Companies can’t be untruthful and ignore discussing the consequences of the change as well. Agent Change has demonstrated that it is important to allow participation in the change process through training and active listening. Agent Change suggested that there are signs of change problems.

Behavioral Reactions

Agent Change said to be on the lookout for the four Ds of trouble: disengagement, disidentification, disenchantment and disorientation. A psychological withdrawal from the actual change is the definition of disengagement. Agent Change understands how to rescue this type of employee. The best scenario is for management to confront the employee and try and reengage them in the change. One idea would be to give a Burger Queen employee new responsibilities to find other ways to make them productive again.

The second of the four Ds is disidentification, which is when an employee feels threatened by the change. Usually the employee is worried that the change will affect their sense of security. Agent Change to the rescue! He wants to make sure that all employees are provided excellent training and show the employees that they can feel and accomplish the same things in the new job.

Disenchantment is when an employee feels very angry or negative about the change. These employees are the most difficult for Agent Change to save. These employees might become the company villains and sabotage or be destructive at work. These types of employees also can destroy morale and hurt productivity. It is important to try and rationalize with the employees and bring them to a neutral position. These employees have the highest chance of quitting or being fired from their position if their negative feelings continue.

The last of the four Ds to battle is disorientation. This is where the initiation of change creates confusion. Employees that are affected by disorientation usually need specific directions and hate uncertainty. Agent Change suggested that employees need to explain the change and give direction and support for guidance. It is important to keep watch for any signs of the four Ds to ensure a transition occurs successfully.

Lesson Summary

There are numerous reasons that can cause an individual to resist change in an organization. The fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of failure, disruption of relationships, certain personalities and internal politics are the main reasons for rejecting change. In order to manage change, the company needs to offer communication, support and participation.

Disengagement, disidentification, disenchantment and disorientation are the four Ds of behavioral reactions to change. A psychological withdrawal from the actual change is the definition of disengagement. Disidentification is when an employee feels threatened by the change. Disenchantment is when an employee feels very angry or negative about the change, and disorientation is when the initiation of change creates confusion.

Learning Outcomes

After completing the lesson, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of employee behavior attitudes during change
  • Understand how resistance to change can managed
  • Recognize the various fears involved
  • Highlight the four Ds of behavioral reaction