News of impending change can provoke resentment, even fear, across any business. This may be quite out of proportion to the disruption that actually takes place.
More anxiety is generated by people’s attitudes towards change than by the change itself.
Today, businesses are experiencing constantly accelerating change. The bottom line is that management must recognise change as a fact of life and develop the right mindset to deal with it positively. The key objectives are to prepare people for change, minimise disruption and loss of morale while it is happening, and maintain productivity, turning it into an opportunity for growth.
Reactions to Change
Of course, reactions to change will vary across the organisation. The senior management team will probably view it most favourably – maybe they were the ones who voted the changes in. The rest of the workforce, having a mistrust of promises from above, might suspect an ulterior motive. Middle management may be undecided and see both benefits and drawbacks in the new arrangements.
Despite this, research seems to indicate that the way people respond to change has less to do with job status and more to do with personality type. How you ‘read’ different personalities will have a bearing on your ability to hold a team together and maintain their performance through difficult times.
Resisters, Embracers and the Undecided
To keep this simple, there are three kinds of people you should be aware of. These are the Resisters, the Embracers, and the Undecided.
The Resisters are those who instinctively dislike change. They tend to dismiss anything new and unfamiliar as unnecessary or impractical. They’re often reluctant to disturb the comfortable rut they’re in, or they might be yearning for some well-ordered world where nothing needs to be altered.
But in truth there is no such world. Change is the lifeblood of business, and it’s vital to be able to manage Resisters and others through it.
Embracers are those who actively welcome change, and are keen to explore new systems or cultures. They may include IT people, who are up to speed with the latest technology – they understand their value to the business and are likely to be promoted. Embracers may also include people who are innovators and risk-takers by nature – they are business builders who are likely to progress quickly in the organisation.
Between the Embracers and the Resisters sit the great majority – the Undecided, otherwise known as floating voters. When you’re thinking about how to get the Undecided on side with change, you need allies.
This is where the Embracers can help, by influencing those who are resistant or slow to change. They will join the cause, especially if you consult them about the changes, instead of just notifying them about what’s going to happen. By taking them into your confidence, you may find you get new insights, perhaps revealing underlying issues not properly identified before.
A Listening Ear
When change is in the offing, it’s not the big public addresses or rousing speeches that will win hearts and minds. No – more important than these are a good listening ear, empathy with the vulnerable, an understanding of how to interpret what people say and an ability to spot and act on verbal clues.
You need to be able to communicate clearly and persuasively, talking to people about the benefits of change, how it is going to serve the general good and help the business remain viable.
And remember that, during the whole process, people at any level may become prey to doubts and confusion, while some may suffer stress-related problems. You should be able and prepared to deal with these behaviours, offering employee support and change management training.
Making the time to take people with you through changing times is crucial. It will pay dividends in terms of increased morale, maximising productivity, and keeping the business on course to take advantage of future opportunities and growth.
- You need the right mindset to be able to manage organisational change effectively
- Offering employee support and change management training are essential
- Reactions to change tend to reflect personality types rather than job status
- A listening ear and being able to empathise are vital management qualities