How to Manage Different "Change Personalities"

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The only thing certain in this world is change. And whenever something changes, people have a variety of reactions. This may be due to the nature of the change or the different personality types involved. But regardless of the reason, managers who want to implement change must effectively respond to the different reactions of employees.

Four common “change personalities” are described below, with suggestions for managing each one.

1. Supporters

Who are they? Supporters embrace the change and move quickly to implement it. They see the benefits of changing and are optimistic about anticipated results. They enjoy talking about and planning for the change.

How do you manage them? Enlist your Supporters in the change effort. Express appreciation for their support, listen to their ideas, and give them a role to play in implementing the change. Often Supporters can help communicate the change to other employees and help to alleviate their concerns.

What should you NOT do? (1) Take your Supporters for granted and fail to involve them. (2) Publicly compare them to less cooperative employees, thereby causing others to resent them.

2. Worriers

Who are they? Worriers are uneasy and uncertain about the change. They may fear being negatively affected, or they may just be uncomfortable with change in general. They do not actively support or resist, but are easily influenced by the last person they talked to.

How do you manage them? Communicate frequently with Worriers to reduce their anxiety. Provide as much information as possible and stress positive aspects of the change. Ask about their concerns and try to alleviate them. Get them involved in the change effort and expose them to Supporters as much as possible. As the change is implemented, express appreciation for their cooperation.

What should you NOT do? (1) Overlook their concerns and fail to communicate. (2) Allow them to be “recruited” by the Militants.

3. Resisters

Who are they? Although Resisters don’t actively protest, they do not want to change. They therefore try to stick with the old way of doing things as long as possible. They may find lots of reasons why the change won’t work or why they need to delay implementing it.

How do you manage them? Talk with Resisters to identify their specific concerns, which are often based in fear. Even logical and rational objections may mask an underlying fear of failure. Explain the benefits of changing, discuss new expectations, offer assistance in meeting them, and express appreciation for attempts to change. Continue to get feedback from them during the change process to be sure the change does get implemented.

What should you NOT do?  (1) Ignore them and assume that they will eventually “get over it”. (2) Allow them to continue doing it the old way.

4. Militants

Who are they? Militants actively work to prevent the change. They loudly complain about the problems it will cause and try to recruit others to their point of view. They play on the fears of Worriers and Resisters. When the change is implemented, they work against it and try to make it fail.

How do you manage them? Initially try the same approach that you use with Resisters. Militants often have similar concerns, but are just more vocal about them. Sometimes Militants make valid points, but because they quickly become adamant or angry, they may have trouble getting management to listen. When managed effectively, Militants sometimes become Supporters. But if they continue to agitate, their disruptive behavior must be stopped immediately.

What should you NOT do? (1) Wait too long to discuss concerns and stop their troublemaking. (2) Give them the opportunity to “recruit” Worriers and Resisters.