Updated: Mar 5
“There are 3 groups of employees in any change journey: ‘Advocates’, ‘Observers’ and ‘Rebels’. Each reacts differently to organisational change and will have different levels of resistance”
It doesn’t matter which continent I am working on, I typically encounter three-employee change standpoints: Advocates, Observers and REBELs. However, to successfully implement organisational change management, we must engage, communicate with, and entice these three employee groups to get buy-in, change adoption, and benefit realisation.
Advocates: They tend to embrace and lead change within the organisation as they are more comfortable with it. They have a positive and growth mindset and see this as an opportunity to grow and improve. The coalition of change agents and ‘Advocates’ can have a massive impact on the organisation, positively enticing the other groups to adopt the change. Similar to the change agents with their positivity towards change, their energy should be captured as they can play an effective role in leading and rolling out the change. The coalition of change agents and ‘Advocates’ can work together to lower resistance in the other groups.
Observers: Monitor the ‘Advocates’ and assess if the change is benefiting them. If this appears positive, they will tend to move towards being receptive to the change. The change agents and ‘Advocates’ should work together to create employee desire to move the ‘Observers’ towards the ‘Tipping Point’. Communication, direct engagement, targeted messaging, and events, such as socialising the future state, will help the ‘Observers’ to adopt the change at a faster rate.
REBELs: Tend to resist change blindly, sometimes this can be a natural reaction even if the change is to their benefit. The default reaction is that change is a bad thing and will put them at a disadvantage. The change agent can help greatly in this area by directly engaging the ‘REBELs’ face-to-face. The change agent should listen with empathy to understand their concerns while communicating the organisation’s change business case. A typical question that comes up is about how much effort you spend on this group. The answer varies from organisation to organisation, with cultures and local laws all having an input and impact on the approach. Another complication is whether the change is about compliance or winning hearts and minds. However, as long as you have tried to understand the root cause of ‘REBEL’ resistance, you have respectfully engaged them and offered solutions by trying all the key tactics to reduce resistance. There might come a time when a difficult decision has to be made, that some of the ‘REBELs’ can no longer be a part of the future ‘B’ state.
“Nothing negatively impacts organisation performance quicker than employees who resist change and who believe that the way they work today is the way they will work tomorrow”
Note: This article was posted on Linkedin 8th Sep 2020Peter consults, speaks, and writes on the Leadership of Change®.
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Peter F Gallagher is a Change Management Global Thought Leader, Guru, Expert, International Speaker, Author and Leadership Alignment Coach.
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Ranked #1 Change Management Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (May 2021 & 2020) by Thinkers360.
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Change Management Behaviour - Leadership of Change® Volume 6, listed among the 50 Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders to read in 2022.
Change Management Adoption - Leadership of Change® Volume 5, listed among year-to-date’s (Jul 2021) most popular books on business and technology from Thinkers360 member thought leaders.
Change Management Handbook - Leadership of Change® Volume 3, listed among the 50 Business and Technology Books from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders to read in 2021.
Change Management Pocket Guide - Leadership of Change® Volume 2, ranked within the top 50 Business and Technology Books (Jan 2020) from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders.