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How to overcome employee objections to policy


First of all, I can hear you asking: Who cares? Why should I care about overcoming employee objections to policy? Now, of course I could swiftly rebuke you with a bunch of talk about how employees are human beings too and part of the team and need to be treated as such. But I won't. I understand perfectly your reaction (assuming you had it). I know that you know that employees are human beings and so forth. I know that you know that employees are part of the team. But you, after all, make company policy; and you're the only one with a broad view of the company's current situation and where it's headed; so it does irk a little when employees get disgruntled and start complaining about company policy. Let's consider a few things, however.

1. No matter how bothersome it is, employees are always going to object to policy changes, especially when those changes seem to affect them negatively.


2. Like it or not, the way you react to your employees reactions is going to more or less permanently set their opinion of you in their minds. Negative reaction, negative views of the boss; positive reaction, positive views of the boss. Not that things are that black and white in the real world; but the basic principle holds.

3. Happy employees are hardworking employees; productive employees; intelligent employees; loyal employees. You might have this great new policy change for the company; you might envision saving time, money, and waste because of it; but if your employees don't like the policy, all that time and money and waste is itself going to be a wasted effort because your employees will enact their "revenge" subtly, sometimes so subtly they're not even conscious of it, and you'll lose in employee performance what you gained in (whatever the policy was).

4. THAT BEING SAID: It's still your company, and it's still your prerogative to make policy; and sometimes policy changes do anger employees no matter how nice a spin you put on it; so-what are your options? Remember, the question was how does one overcome employee objections to company policy, not how does one do away with them altogether.

5. First then, realize that employee objections to policy are more or less inevitable going in. Even so, you should break the news as tactfully, respectfully, and synergistically as possible. That is, don't just make the announcement as if you're Moses thundering forth from the mountain; and don't make it in a rush, either, as you're headed off to your tennis lesson. Call a meeting together; stem any ugly rumors that may have arisen; and explain to your employees the real facts of the policy change.

6. This is important: explain the facts of the policy change to your employees in great detail, even tedious detail (i.e., the same sort of detail that you had to consider when making the change in the first place). Then, and this is really important, open the floor for discussion. Listen to your employees' reactions. Some might be angry; some might be "whatever"; some might actually like the policy change. Your job, over the next few months, is to show your employees that they come first whenever you make any decision about your company. Your job is to show them how the policy change actually improves their situations, as it improves the company; they're in a win-win situation. The point, remember, is to overcome employee objections to policy; and this takes patience and creativity.

7. One last suggestion. Don't start "kissing up" to your employees in hopes that this line of action will help you overcome their objections to your new policy. They'll not only continue to dislike the policy, they'll come to dislike you even worse. Just be yourself; be a leader; and do the best you can to make your employees feel valuable, crucial, and loved, no matter what policy changes come down the road.

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