This Is Why You Can’t Get Employees To Embrace Change

by Elizabeth Dukes on January 2, 2019

You’ve worked for months on a blueprint for your new workplace. It’s been vetted by your leadership team and department managers. Even the budget is approved.

But when it’s time to introduce employees to their brand new office, they’re less than enthusiastic. In fact, they’re downright defiant. Why?

Change management expert Andrea Sanchez said there’s one big reason most change initiatives fail—and there’s a simple solution.

Change Management: What Most Leaders Forget

“A change in behavior begins with a change in the heart.” – Unknown

When it comes to change, most people tend to focus on what they have to give up, as opposed to what they stand to gain. They fear the uncertainty the change will bring more than the change itself.

In a recent webinar about change management, Sanchez, the executive director of personal branding company Spark Story, said the biggest mistake most leaders make is losing sight of why they’re making the change. (And, of course, failing to effectively communicate that why to the workforce.)

Author Simon Sinek boils this down into a simple illustration he calls the Golden Circle. At the center of that circle is the ‘why,’ which should be your company’s motivation for everything it does.

“People will buy anything from Apple because they are so connected to the why, Sanchez said. “You want to make it that way when you’re managing change in the workplace. Lead with why.”

The 5 Phases of Successful Change Management

With any organizational change, there are typically five stages that need to happen prior to acceptance, Sanchez said. Understanding these stages and making sure you’ve covered each of them well will make it easier to get employees on board with any change.

The five phases of successful change management are:

  1. Awareness – Your organization recognizes the need to change.
  2. Desire – Employees understand why the change is important and become committed to it. (This is the step Sanchez said organizations most often overlook.)
  3. Knowledge – Employees understand the elements of the change and their role in it.
  4. Ability – Your organization has the necessary resources and processes in place to make the change.
  5. Reinforcement – Leaders continue to communicate updates on the change to the workforce, gather feedback and celebrate successes.

The Importance of Communication During Change Management

When IFMA was moving its corporate headquarters to a new building, Sanchez recalled there was constant communication with employees throughout the process.

Leaders set up a “staging area” to show what the new workplace design would look like. They brought in different chairs and furniture and asked employees to vote on which one they liked best. They included updates in employee newsletters and email communication.

If you want any change initiative to succeed, Sanchez said, you have to use communication that is multi-faceted and interactive.

In other words, don’t just send out a series of emails.

Use social media, town hall meetings and forums that are interactive. And don’t underestimate the importance of “face time.”

“No matter how sophisticated we get with technology, I still believe face-to-face is the ideal and most powerful way of communicating something,” she said.

Even if you’ve done everything in your power to manage change effectively, there are bound to be some employees who resist. Some might be more vocal, while others will find passive-aggressive ways to resist—such as agreeing in public but complaining about the change to their departments.

It’s best to address these issues individually, Sanchez said. Try to understand what they’re really afraid of and what could improve the situation.

For more great change management tips and examples from Sanchez, watch a recording of our webinar.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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