By Carole Spiers
Any prospect of major organisational change – a merger, takeover, relocation or perhaps restructuring – can tend to provoke fear and resentment out of proportion to the actual disruption that eventually occurs. All too frequently, it can be our attitude and mindset towards change rather than the change itself that can cause the most anxiety.
People’s Varying Reactions To Change
Superficially you might assume that reactions to forthcoming change would vary according to seniority. The people at the top (who might well have voted for the changes) would tend to view it most favourably. The rest of the workforce might be more likely to suspect an ulterior motive, having perhaps learned to mistrust any promises from above. And in between would be the middle management, who would see a mix of benefits and drawbacks in the new arrangements.
Yet under any test, it seems that the responses have less to do with status, and more to do with personality types. And your ‘reading’ of these different types will determine your success in holding a team together and maximising their performance.
At one end, there are those who instinctivelyresist change. One clue is their tendency to dismiss anything new and unfamiliar as unnecessary or impracticable. In essence, this can only be attributed to laziness, a reluctance to disturb the comfortable rut they’ve got settled into, a yearning for some well-ordered world where nothing needs to be altered. Analysis shows that there is no such world. Change is the lifeblood of business, and is always necessary to drive it.
At the other end are those who actively embrace change, eagerly exploring new systems and cultures. Some of these may simply be those trained in the latest technology, who know that corporate change will tend to move them up the pecking order. But they will also include people who are just innovators and risk-takers by nature – in other words, the type that tends to gravitate upwards, whatever their origins, the type without whom there would be no business in the first place.
It is these people who you hope will be your allies in influencing the large majority who are undecided, or what you might call the ‘floating voters’. One good technique is to ask them straight out “Where do you think we’re going wrong?” This may be the first time they’ve actually been consulted about the changes, instead of just notified of them, and it may yield new insights, perhaps revealing an underlying grievance that had never been properly identified before.
The Need To Listen
The chief qualities needed for this morale-raising agenda include empathy with the vulnerable, a good listening style, a knowledge of how to interpret dialogue and spot verbal clues, and a gift for persuading your listener of the benefits of forthcoming change for the corporate good.
And remember that this large group, with its doubts and confusions, is the one most likely to be experiencing stress-related problems, and you should be geared for applying workplace stress interventions and management, through change management training and employee support.
Carole SpiersFISMA, FPSA, MIHPE
Carole’s speciality is the human dimension of organisational change. She is the CEO of a leading UK stress management and wellbeing consultancy. Carole is an international motivational speaker and C-suite Executive Coach. She is Chair of the International Stress Management Association [UK], founder of Stress Awareness Day, Fellow and Past President of the Professional Speaking Association, London. Carole is a BBC Guest-broadcaster and author of Show Stress Who’s Boss! www.carolespiers.co.uk