Keep the Change – Pump Your Own Gas

gas pump handle

gas pump handleThe only thing more constant than change in this world is how much people hate change. Regardless of how well researched the change is or how much it will benefit others, people will naturally resist giving up what is comfortable and familiar. A great example of our illogical resistance to change became headline news this week when new gas pumping laws took effect in Oregon.

Even though residents of 48 other states are capable of (and perhaps prefer) pumping their own gas, some Oregon residents believe the new self-pumping option in 36 countries is ill-advised. CBS affiliate KTVL news in Medford asked their Facebook followers how they feel about the new law. The responses were interesting.

Here are a few of the concerns:

  • Pumping gas is hazardous and should only be handled by professionals
  • Oregonians have had no training in gas pumping and are ill-prepared for the task
  • People who need these entry-level jobs will become unemployed
  • People will go to work smelling like gas if they self-pump
  • Self-pumping will expose drivers to transients and other safety concerns
  • Children will be kidnapped from vehicles while adults are pumping gas
  • People with arthritis will be adversely affected
  • Oregon has unique, unsafe weather for people to endure while pumping gas
  • Higher risk of human trafficking

The original Facebook post has been active for nearly a week, so naturally the comments are now filled with people poking fun at Oregonians’ concerns. As one commenter stated:

“I have so many questions. Do gas stations in Oregon exist only in war zones? Do they not have covers? Does the gas not shut off, but sprays continually all over everyone? Are cars routinely raided and children stolen? Is there a secret black market for children? Are the homeless people snipers? Does no one own gloves or leggings? Do the current attendants have free health care to deal with the apparent myriad of problems caused by exposure to gas fumes? Is pumping gas a lucrative career that needs to be protected? I’m so confused.”

Aside from fair concerns about people losing their jobs and accessibility for the disabled and elderly, most of the concerns boil down to one main theme–no one wants to change. The Oregon self-pump option is a great example about resistance to change because this particular change is neither unknown nor untested. Petroleum suppliers have convinced ninety six percent of the US population that they should self-pump, despite the odds stacked against them at the gas pump every day.

If everyone is being honest about their objections, the 50,000+ comments to KTVL’s post would just say “I don’t want to,” “the price won’t be any lower,” or “I prefer the customer service and comfort provided by a full-service pump.” There’s nothing wrong with those reasonable opinions. When human-trafficking and gas fume-related health hazards take over the debate, in spite of evidence from 48 other states, it’s clear that change resistance is the game.

Whether it’s a new law, new software at work, or new process, if behaviors must change, then a change management strategy is crucial.

First, don’t announce the change until you have as many details ironed out as possible. Individuals who resist change can sniff out vulnerabilities to a plan like a bloodhound. The announcement should be clear and as detailed as necessary so little is left unknown. When there are gaps in the plan, people will expect the worst and capitalize on that issue to drive fear in others.

Next, be clear about why the change is being made. Focus on the ways in which the change benefits the employee. Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them. If there are no immediate benefits to the employees, make sure you tie the change in with the organization’s vision or culture. The worst kind of change is change for change sake. Give a strong, compelling reason for the change, and more importantly- a reason to rally behind it.

Lastly, if it’s unlikely the team will jump on the change bandwagon, find ways to incentivize new, positive behaviors. Reward those who become part of the solution and become early adopters. Support and promote those who are champions of the change. The goal here is to minimize the number of people who could try to sabotage the change in it’s early stages. Chances are, once the change is in place and accepted, no one will remember why they resisted it in the first place.