CXO

How to convert technophobes in changing office environments

You know the type: the employee who refuses to accept technology and changes in the way work is done. Here's what readers suggest for coercing the reluctant user to get with the IT program and learn new things.


Many TechRepublic members can relate to the challenges of dealing with technophobic employees. In a recent article, Jeff Davis asked for advice on convincing a reluctant client to go ahead with technological upgrades despite a valued employee’s refusal to accept a computer. These comments from readers offer advice for dealing with stubborn employees who are resistant to change.

Ultimatums: A risky approach
For some members, the most effective means of dealing with stubborn technophobes is to offer an ultimatum. Member jpratt writes:

“As a previous boss told me, no one is irreplaceable. I would simply explain to the individual that the technology will be introduced and they will use it, or someone else will be found who can. If the person still refuses, find someone to replace them, then let the person go.”

But can organizations afford to confront key employees with such drastic measures? For member Gull, this depends on the size of the organization:

“When you're dealing with a small company, sometimes people are irreplaceable. Someone who has kept the books and worked with old legacy systems for 20 years is going to know that business inside and out.

“Replacing them is going to be very difficult. Making an ultimatum with such people is probably not the best way to go.”

Glenn from Iowa agrees that these kinds of ultimatums could disrupt small office cultures in which individuals are highly valued. He suggests that it is “better to ease them into the changes.”

How to get people to change
If firing a reluctant employee is too drastic, managers have to figure out how to persuade the individual to accept the changes. Some members believe that other employees who adapt more easily hold the key. Member Paul V. Piescik suggests:

“I think I’d conspire with the owners to make the computer look advantageous—people using it got the day's work done quicker, got a couple hours off, etc.”

Glenn from Iowa agrees:

“If it is done right, she probably will see how much time and effort her coworkers are saving and ask for a computer before long anyway.”

Instead of relying solely on the examples set by other employees, inviting the stubborn technophobe to participate in the development process might lure him or her into the project and thus toward embracing the changes. TechRepublic member PatV suggests this approach:

“Since this employee is so valuable that the owners are basing major decisions on her judgment, maybe she can show us a few things about productivity. I would ask for her help in designing the system, not for her but for everyone else, so the rest of the office can keep up with her.

“Ask her in turn to understand that some employees are not as organized as she is and need computers to get a lot of work done.”

Member gascon’s experience has shown that many reluctant users need to see how the new technology satisfies a particular aspect of their own jobs or interests.

“One other thing that is necessary is to have them need the computer; it helps if they see the benefits for a specific task. In my case, the person wanted to publish a book, so he needed to create a file for each chapter and to communicate with his editor far away.”

If that doesn’t work, mwwade suggests striking a more personal chord:

“One of the three owners I have to deal with on a daily basis absolutely refused to even have a desktop PC in the same office space with him. He was finally won over when his secretary told him that she was going to file a sex discrimination suit against him if he didn't start dealing with his own e-mail from his cronies featuring the usual dreck seen on the XXX-sites. She was having to print all of the attachments on her printer so he could ‘read’ them!”
How have you swayed hesitant employees to embrace technological changes in the organization? We seek your advice. Join the discussion or drop us an e-mail and share your thoughts.

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