Thames Reach
Friday 18 August 2017
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Addressing resistance

Resistance impedes the progress of an initiative. Thames Reach developed methods to overcome resistance to the concept of user employment within the staff group.

Staff members in conversation
Staff were encouraged to air their concerns and debate the concept of service user employment

Implementing change causes uncertainty and anxiety. A Thames Reach survey found that there were a number of concerns held by members of staff throughout the organisation.

Some were justifiable worries, e.g. issues relating to confidentiality and professional boundaries, while others grew out of prejudices and stereotypes about our service users.

What is ‘resistance’?

Voicing concerns or displaying a healthy scepticism is not the same as resistance. Resistance impedes the progress of an initiative. Many staff voiced concerns, but once these were discussed, and strategies for reducing or managing the issues and risks developed, then felt able to embrace the idea.

What resistance might you identify at the start?

  • Overt resistance – e.g. staff saying they don’t believe in the initiative and are not interested in taking part

  • Teams and managers being unwilling to be involved in recruitment, learning, debate, or taking trainees. Sometimes this is couched in terms of a ‘lack of capacity’

How will you know how much resistance exists?

  • Conduct staff surveys of attitudes before and after setting up the programme. This may take the form of:

    • focus groups

    • semi-structured interviews

    • formal attitudinal surveys

  • Assess which teams are willing to employ service users or take trainees, and monitor change in take-up:

At the start of GROW, we established that one third of teams were willing to accommodate a trainee. Eighteen months on, this figure had increased to 90%. There was only one team that had taken a trainee and then decided their structure was not suited to trainees. This team is now restructuring their core staffing to incorporate two trainees.

Overcoming resistance

Thames Reach has found the following strategies to be effective in reducing and overcoming resistance:

  • Identify converts and allies in the staff group to ‘champion’ the initiative. Do this early on to help build momentum

  • Publicise success stories as early on as possible

  • Provide opportunities to debate issues and concerns as a way to win hearts and minds

  • Provide training on revised polices and practices, and on solutions to identified concerns  

  • Use the support of senior managers to agree to quick and flexible responses to unexpected problems. This demonstrates to staff that you have a solution-focused approach

  • Disseminate information across the organisation about the project’s progress to ensure staff perceive it as a current and important issue

  • Build investment in the project by involving a high proportion of staff

  • Invite influential sceptics to join your Steering Group in the role of friendly critics

  • Only as a last step, when absolutely necessary, issue directives

In addition, Thames Reach committed resources to this project. For example, we employed a dedicated manager to act as leader, trouble-shooter, influencer, developer and co-ordinator of the initiative. This helped to get the project off the ground and keep the momentum high.

The links on the left lead to some examples of how each of these strategies has been employed.