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Human Resources Management
Managing Rebellious Employees
By Dr. Michael Mercer
Nov 13, 2006, 16:08

Surveys of executives reveal that many companies fall short of their profit objectives due to “people problems.”  Research for my Absolutely Fabulous Organizational Change book found these “people problems” fall into two “r” categories: rebellion and resistance.

Rebellion is akin to teenagers defying authority figures, fir instance, rebelling against leaders who institute change. 

Resistance includes employees flinging roadblocks in the way of the organizational change.  Examples include employees slowing down their work pace, badmouthing the change behind leaders’ backs, making spiteful comments about the leaders, and slashing productivity.

Feels Like a Lover or Spouse Just Walked Out on You
One of my prouder moments in the media spotlight occurred when I appeared on business television shows -- and also was quoted in national magazines -- concerning employees’ emotional reactions to organizational change.  I had just delivered a speech on the topic at a national convention.  At the press conference after my speech, reporters snapped to attention and later quoted me when I said the following:  "The major emotional reaction of employees during organizational change is that they feel like their spouse or lover just walked out on them!”
Why did my statement attract media attention?  Because I summarized the emotionally charged sting of betrayal everyone has felt for various reasons.  Employees showing difficulty handling change often feel betrayed.  They get used to everything at work being done in a certain way.  But all of a sudden, if a company (or spouse or lover) changes how it acts, the person feels a huge sense of loss, distrust, and betrayal.

7 Methods to Handle Resistant Employees
My research on executives who lead highly profitable organizational change uncovered the seven most useful methods to handle resistant employees:
a.  communicate reasons for change
b.  terminate
c.  involve employees in decision-making
d.  incentive pay
e.  insist employees achieve quantified objectives within deadlines
f.  teamwork that creates peer pressure to “get with the program”
g.  celebrate successes to help employees feel proud and emotionally “bond”

“Old-Style” Versus “New-Style” Employees
 Another bottom line concern:  Employees who worked productively before the organizational change may be unproductive after the change is implemented.  I call them “old-style” and “new-style” employees.  I find the following vital differences:

Old-Style Employees            New-Style Employees
Works in 1 department        Interdepartmental
Solo work                             Teamwork
Likes receiving direction       Likes independence
Prefers to be told                 Prefers shared leadership
  what to do  

Focus:  Seniority & experience  Focus: Updating & expanding skills

 For example, at Excell Global Services, vice president Lori Ulichnie used four methods to transform old-style employees into the new-style employees needed to implement Excell’s highly profitable organizational changes:
*  Incentive pay
*  Thrill of employees receiving executives’ attention
*  Clear business strategy
*  Communicate 500 Times” -- continually repeating
      Excell’s strategy to employees.

Shoot the Dissenters
Another way to handle resistant employees was colorfully stated when I delivered my Absolutely Fabulous Organizational Change™ presentation at a company’s management retreat.  At one point during my presentation, an executive stood and dramatically announced:  “As our organization undergoes major organizational changes, we always seek to cure the wounded.  But, we will shoot the dissenters!”

 Every manager in my workshop remained silent for a few moments.  Then, they all burst out laughing.  Reason:  They recognized the wisdom of what they heard.  Some rebellious and resistant employees simply need to be de-employed.  After all, a company’s purpose is to prosper -- not to run a counseling center for rebellious employees.

Hire the Best
Importantly, a fantastic way to avoid employee problems in times of change is to not hire employees who could become problem employees!  As I always ask in my workshops and speeches on Hire the Best -- & Avoid the Rest™, “What’s the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to have productive and dependable employees?”  My answer:  “Hire people who are productive and dependable human beings!!”  Superior hiring methods often include evaluating applicants using customized tests and interviews.

Copyright 2006

Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is nationally recognized as America’s Hire the Best Expert™.  Pre-employment tests he created are used by hundreds of companies.  These are called the “Abilities & Behavior Forecaster™ Tests.  He also devised the customizable 7-Step Method to Hire the Best™.  His 5 books include  “Hire the Best -- & Avoid the Rest™” and also “Turning Your HR Department into a Profit Center™.”  You can obtain his free 14-page Special Report on “Hiring Productive, Profitable, & Honest Employees”, plus a free subscription to his Management Newsletter at