10 Opportunities for Veterans to Reduce Resistance to Change

(U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Jacob Cessna)

The following is an excerpt from "Voyager/Veteran: The Journey to a Successful Job Search Mindset."

It's important to understand basic elements of the change process and its application to the job search process. This understanding allows the veteran to become his or her own facilitator of change -- a realistic approach to the development of self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Thus, the process of change is congruent with the process of job search and the first step veterans make in the civilian world is accepting change.

The Personalized View of Change

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, "The only constant in the Universe is change."

Similarly, a more contemporary application of Heraclitus' quote is attributed to Isaac Asimov, an American professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He is known as one of this country's most prolific writers of science fiction and popular science fiction books.

His most famous quote singularly explains the basis of how our world functions: "It is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the dominant factor in society today."

For most of us, accepting change is not always easy. We often go through phases in our lives, and that takes time. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first introduced the concept in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” which set the stage for the hospice movement in this country. A review of her model helps us understand and cope with the process of change. The basic stages she identified were:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

This model can also be applied to the process one might experience when going through the loss of a job. You are suddenly faced with the traumatic and unanticipated task of conducting a new job search. This processing of events is what many veterans already have experienced, or are currently experiencing, when leaving the military.

Although the initial cause isn't death, it is still separation from a long-held job, and the emotional involvement is similar to the following responses: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Reducing Resistance to Change

Whether an individual is a facilitator or recipient of change, there are a few factors that are indicative of why acceptance or resistance may or may not occur.

1. When the status quo is perceived to be satisfactory.

Resistance will be less if participants clearly understand the basic problem and reason for change, as well as the possible negative outcome for maintaining things as they are.

Presenting real or hypothetical scenarios about what will happen if things are allowed to continue as normal is more likely to result in acceptance.

2. When the purpose of change is not clearly understood.

Generally, a great deal of resistance can be eliminated or reduced if those impacted by change are allowed to ask questions and are given feedback. There is always a need to know the "why" behind the "what" and the "how."

Quite often, when adequate information is not available or is withheld, intended participants will become subject to their own invention about what is happening, resulting in imaginary problems.

3. When people become engaged in short-term, narrowly focused thinking.

Many individuals tend to resist change because they won't or can't put on hold their desire for personal gratification or aren't able to visualize beyond personal views or beliefs.

4. When the person proposing change is not trusted or valued.

Participants are less likely to resist change when it is supported or endorsed by key figures in an organization, or who already have credibility and earned respect from intended recipients of change.

Personality conflicts between facilitator and recipient tend to increase the likelihood of resistance. The guiding principle to increasing acceptance of change is that of treating participants with dignity, respect and integrity.

5. When the recipients of change are not involved in the planning process.

Resistance is less likely to occur when recipients have a vested interest in the outcome and when they have the feeling they have somehow made a contribution to the cause.

Recipients should be allowed to offer suggestions from their own knowledge and experience. Facilitators should show respect for the recipients' opinions and feelings prior to the implementation of any change.

6. When the impact upon recipient control, confidence and courage are not considered.

More often than not, change can and does become a threat to self-esteem. It's important to consider that resistance to change and the fear generated by it (e.g., the inability to predict the outcome) can be reduced by assisting recipients to realize the things they can control.

Change acceptance requires each stage of the process to be reduced to small, manageable steps. Such consideration incrementally produces the courage and confidence of the recipient, proving a feeling of manageable control regarding other aspects of the process as they emerge.

7. When there is a failure to deal with a recipient's possible personal loss of control.

Resistance begins to increase when participants are not provided with the appropriate training and education upon which informed decisions are made.

Offering information and implementing change slowly and on a trial basis is the most likely way to reassure the anxious recipient that success is not only possible but highly probable. It tends to reduce any sense of loss of control by providing an opportunity to get more facts about change.

8. When there are no provisions for handling the fear of loss of ego, status, power or resources.

Quite often, the implementation of change, without first considering its impact or emotional bruising on the ego of the recipient, leads to resistance.

Those recipients who thought they were finally "in the know" may have to step back and admit they may have misjudged the process or their own assumptions about change.

9. When there is a failure to avoid excessive pressure to implement change, when planning is haphazard, insufficient or nonexistent.

For change to be effective and fair, it needs to be objectively planned and well-timed. If change is implemented unfairly and comes as a surprise, resistance is sure to follow. Participants need time to evaluate and adjust before change occurs.

When change comes within a short period of time from previously implemented change, it blatantly ignores the pressure put upon individuals who must deal with the change. This is particularly true with change that was difficult to execute and can entrench existing resistance.

You can identify difficult executions when authorities use terms like, "We know there will be glitches," "The system isn't perfect,’’ or "We'll figure it out as we go.”

Highly entrenched resistance is difficult to overcome.

10. When change implementation is rigid or inflexible.

To keep resistance to a minimum, the process of implementing change must be open to revision and reconsideration, especially when participant response indicates that system modification appears to be warranted.

-- Pete (P.D.) Pritchard is a Certified GCDF (Global Career Development Facilitator), a graduate of the Lila Atchison School of Community Service and Public Affairs at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he received master's and bachelor’s degrees. He has an associate degree in Criminal Justice Disciplines from Shasta Junior College in Redding, California. Pritchard helps veterans develop and marshal the self-motivational skills needed to move forward with their lives after serving their country.

His book, "Voyager/Veteran: The Journey to a Successful Job Search Mindset" is available for pre-order now and hits bookshelves April 6, 2021.

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