You observe the time and place basics of good communication, always speak with the employee in private, preferably the time when the employee is more likely to be relaxed. If possible, seat yourself such that there isn't a desk between you and make sure you won't be disturbed by phone calls and such.
And number one, you would start by thanking the employee and stating whatever you can appreciate about John. For example, “I appreciate you're coming in today, John. There are some things I've been wanting to discuss with you.” And pause to let John say something if he so chooses. If not, go on with, “John, you've always been a good team player. And your efforts have contributed a lot towards our project success.”
And secondly, move on to what the problem is in behavioral terms, perhaps starting with, “You know, you don't seem to be yourself lately.” And then give specific examples such as, “Yesterday, when I asked you to work with Terry on the IT change, you grabbed the work order and slammed the door on your way out.” Or, “I overheard you tell (Jane) she could go get help with how to implement the IT change from someone else. You didn't have time to waste in teaching her.” And then ask in a neutral, non-judgmental tone, “What's this about for you?”
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And number three, then, wait. This is often the hardest part. Give the employee time to collect his thoughts and respond. If he says, “I don't know,” try asking, “Well, if you did know, what do you think might be going on for you?” Keep asking open-ended questions in a non-judgmental tone until you get response.
Fourthly, now, all you have to do is pace. If he says, “I'm fed up with being taken for granted around here” pace with, “Being taken for granted is disheartening.” If he says, “No one appreciates me, I do all the work and they get all the glory.” Pace with, “It feels rotten not to have your efforts recognized.”
Continue to pace until you're pretty sure John has divulged most of his feeling. No one ever discloses all of them to a manager. So, he's now at a receptive position for your lead.
Fifthly, you can lead by asking, “What are your thoughts on getting some of these issues resolved?” And then work through the problem solving stage together. Offering your input, listening to his. Listening is key.
Sixthly, when you’ve addressed all the issues, worked out a plan or taken the conversation however far it needs to go for now with a follow up assured, end the conversation by rising, thanking John for working with you on this, and appreciating his cooperation and seeing him (personal) out of the office. Be sure to have a “go-to” person assigned to helping John with his plan.
Our expert suggested in one of the healthcare webinars that you can't always wait for employees to bring their distress about change to you. Sometimes you have to go get it yourself. When you know how to pace and lead however, dealing with employee's resistance becomes much more manageable. But more than that, you can make employee resistance work for you rather than against you.
Every time a resistant employee tells you why he or she is bucking the change, that employee is giving you very valuable information about how to make the change process more efficient, more successful. People resist something because it doesn't fit right with them. Pay attention to what the resistance tells you and act on it.
If the resistance comes out of, “I'm worried I'll get behind in my work. Well, I'm trying to get up on to speed on the new software and I'll get penalized when bonus time comes around” then you know what to address.
If it's, “I'm used to my old team. We work really well together. I don't know these new people. I don't trust them.” Good, then address that. Invite discussion, brainstorming, input from the employees involved. Take their resistance seriously. Use it to help you find solution.
As stated by our expert in a healthcare training conference, it's rare that the resistance one employee voices isn't felt by a whole bunch of others who just aren't talking about it. Then, not only will you and your managers see resistance in a new light. He'll make good use of it in furthering the change.
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