Staff Appreciation: The Hidden Key to Solve Resistance to Change

by | Oct 14, 2016 | approachable leadership

What does staff appreciation have to do with managing change?


ATD’s Change Again? article gives some hard-to-ignore reasons for why you want to focus on staff appreciation when managing change.

“When staff feel appreciated, resistance diminishes.”

Remember the three reasons people resist change.

  • They don’t get it (an information gap);
  • They don’t like it (an emotional reaction); or
  • They don’t like you (a relational trust issue).

Think about how staff appreciation impacts each of these three areas.

When a person doesn’t feel appreciated, it’s safe to assume that there’s a lot of noise going on in his head. Most of the time he’s just talking to himself. Why does he stay? Is there some place else he could be? Somewhere he could get more recognition? Do something different? Maybe make more money? Meanwhile, he’s trying to find the headspace to actually get his work done. Then you throw a new change effort on top of that.

When your team is so busy thinking about how their own lives need to change, it’s hard for them to really hear or care about some new change effort the suits upstairs think will make things better. So they don’t listen. They’re distracted. Not really into it. They don’t care.

The solution isn’t to force the new change effort down your team’s throats. Instead it’s time to focus a little more time on showing some staff appreciation. Remind them of what they love about their job and working with you. Clear some of the clutter out of their heads. All leaders have the authority to show appreciation. It costs nothing but time.

Do this, and suddenly the details of the change effort don’t seem nearly so daunting. Folks will bear down a little harder when they encounter a road block. They’ll start saying “yes, and” instead of “yes, but.” Resistance will start to melt away.

Staff appreciation lowers anxiety levels and increases “above and beyond” behavior at work. And when they feel valued (as people and employees) by their leaders, it’s easier to accept that whatever change is ahead is in the best interest of the whole team.

“Feeling appreciated creates energy for change.”

It takes energy to resist. And most of the time, people don’t even realize they’re doing it. Human nature lives in the subconscious. And feelings are hard to control.

You know how it is. We’ve all been in situations where we’re running into the wind. It’s exhausting. Truly managing change requires that you help your team reallocate that energy. Move it from resistance to focus on productive tasks.

Employee recognition is not the same as appreciation.

Most companies have some sort of employee recognition program already. That’s great. But it doesn’t solve any of the problems that only staff appreciation can solve.

Appreciation is personal. It’s one on one. And it’s about more than praising solid work. It’s also about praising personal qualities.

Do you have a member of the team that always keeps her cool even when the proverbial s*** hits the fan? Tell her you appreciate that. What about one that pulls out the decorations around the holidays and makes it a little more enjoyable to be in the office? Show appreciation for that. How about the guy that sweeps up a whole bay of the shop floor, even though he’s only required to clean up his area. Tell him how much you appreciate him.

These things are called organizational citizenship behaviors. Not only do they boost morale and productivity, they are keys to successfully managing change.

Have you noticed a change in behavior when you stepped up your appreciation game? Do you ever notice your willingness to muscle through change drop when you aren’t feeling appreciated? Try some staff appreciation. See what happens. And stay tuned for our final article on Managing Change in the workplace and in life.

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