Approaches to managing reactions to change

Change is a process. Employees are comfortable with and prefer the current state. Transitioning through change creates stress and anxiety. In most cases, the future state is unknown or not well understood. In reality, each impacted employee has his or her own current and future state and not everyone arrives at the future state at the same time. Some employees may never make the transition.  An adaptation of Kubler-Ross “Change Curve” is used in presenting directions on how to mange employee reactions through change transition.

Phase 1: In Denial and/or In Shock – When in denial an employee has not accepted the changes and is looking for evidence that the change is not happening or that it isn’t true. When in shock, news of the change was a surprise and unexpected.  When managing reactions associated with phase 1, be clear on:

  • Why the business has to change
  • What the business consequences are of not changing
  • what is changing
  • What is staying the same
  • How the changes will take place
  • What the future will look like, and
  • Use various communication mediums to deliver the above key messages. Ensuring face-to fact communications with employees most affected by the changes

Phase 2: Frustrated and Resisting and/or Feeling Depressed – Employees most affected by the change see things are changing, but are angry at times.  Morale is low and in some cases are not contributing productively.  When managing reactions at this phase:

  • Continue to provide information concerning the change and the positive and negative consequences to the business and the individual of changing
  • Be clear on how the changes will affect certain positions and the support systems in place to help them through the transition
  • Be clear of the performance expectations and that change is everyone’s responsibility
  • Provide training and coaching on the new way of working
  • Implement corrective actions and exit strategies to minimise potential derailing of change efforts and toxic behaviours

Phase 3: Experimenting, Engaged and Participating, Integrated – Employees that have transitioned to this phase are adopting some of the changes and learning to work in the new situation and are generally more positive. They have made the decision to engage and participate productively, ultimately leading to a renewed outlook and integration of changes..  When managing reactions at this phase:

  • Continue training and coaching until full integration has occurred
  • Set clear performance measures
  • Reinforce new behaviours and models of working with incentives to instil the changes
  • Celebrate along the way – Make it fun!
  • Continue to diagnose gaps and monitor resistance  and adjust approach accordingly

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