How To Minimize The Emotional Impact Of Change
Change within any organization is difficult to manage, especially if that change comes with an emotional impact for both leaders and workers of that organization.
The changing of an organization’s strategic direction, a merger or acquisition that results in layoffs, the departure of a beloved top executive, or a large-scale reorganization that leads to new roles for workers – these are all examples of change could result in a significant emotional impact for employees.
With that in mind, organizations must continually look for ways to mitigate the emotional impact of change. The first – and most obvious solution – is to make communication from the top to the bottom of the organization as transparent as possible. That ensures that decisions made in the executive suite are effectively communicated down to the level of workers, thereby minimizing the chances for a “surprise” announcement. When workers trust in management, and realize that the team has their best interests in mind, change is no longer as scary.
Another key strategy embraced by organizations is to make change part of the organizational mission.
As a result, workers who are brought onboard realize ahead of time that change is part of the broader strategic mandate. For example, within the fast-moving technology markets of Silicon Valley, companies continually reinvent their business models in what is known as the “pivot.”
In doing so, companies “pivot” from one idea that may not be working to one that is. Some of Silicon Valley’s best-known technology companies – including YouTube and Twitter – actually started off looking very different than they do now. At the time, change was emotional – it meant re-thinking the entire vision of the founding team.
Of course, executing a pivot and making change part of the overall organization is much easier at a small, 10-person startup where people may have less at stake financially than at larger, Fortune 500 companies where each change may be worth tens of millions of dollars.
So how can larger organizations also minimize the emotional impact of change?
In short, larger organizations must introduce a corporate culture in which change is welcomed and embraced, and one in which there are support mechanisms for when things do go wrong. In some cases, it means adapting the ethos of a startup – encouraging open-space work arrangements where workers and managers co-exist and can see what’s happening around them. In other cases, it means actually encouraging employees to “fail.” In yet other cases, it means rapid rotations around every business unit of an organization, to discourage workers from becoming too complacent for too long. Once employees are inured to change, it is no longer so emotionally draining when it occurs.
Inevitably, emotional change will happen, and that’s when the best companies are prepared. They’ve laid the groundwork for change on a constant, recurring basis; they’ve set up the right communication channels between the managers and front-line workers; and they’ve outlined clearly that change does not have to be about success or failure – it’s about becoming stronger and more resilient as an organization.
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