Did you know that we, humans, fear change more than we fear death? Studies prove that change tops the list of things the human species dread. We are creatures of habit and dislike being faced with the unknown and the disruption of our routines.
Change creates anxiety and uncertainty which causes us to lose control. Therefore, we resist that change to regain control. Uncertainty registers in our brain much like an error does. There’s a need (conscious or not) for it to be corrected before we can feel at ease again.
Like death, change is guaranteed in life, so how do we manage change effectively to minimize the fear it evokes? Implementing change in your organization requires sensitivity and skill.
How can we help our team embrace and celebrate change? Communication and trust are key. If we haven’t created a culture of openness and trust, we will encounter resistance when implementing change.
For example, if we simply announce a change in staffing, we assume that everyone’s needs are aligned with the organization’s, or even worse that there is no need for alignment. This approach assumes your team wants the change that the company deemed appropriate for them.
Change is successful only when the team is actively engaged. Consider the following steps when implementing a change like integrating or promoting new managers and team members:
Short-circuit the rumor mill
High levels of anxiety are often brought about by rumors of impending change, especially as it relates to staffing changes. Self-doubt sets in when team members don’t know what to expect from a new hire, especially when that new hire is a manager.
And as we well know, some team members love to create drama as they are sure that any change will negatively affect them. Concerns about job security and their voices being heard are bound to arise. This gossip is crippling to an organization.
Instead of letting gossip rule the office or run rampant like cancer, announce upcoming changes as soon as possible before the rumor mill can take off. If changes aren’t known or not being fully shared with the entire team yet, reinforce that talking about it won’t change anything so focus on what we can control – our role / our job.
Make it personal
Explain what the new person or position will bring to the party and how each of us will benefit from this addition or change to our team. Be specific where practical about the new learning opportunities that will arise from another point of view. Encourage the team to look at it as an opportunity, not something to fear or dread.
Introduce and connect the dots
If announcing that a new person is coming onboard, make sure to include not only their professional qualifications but also some personal details so that the team can start to relate to them. Do they have kids? Do they love dogs? Where they the class clown? Look for what the new hire has in common with the team. This will make them seem less like an outsider and more like one of us. If promoting from within, ensure reasoning and qualifications are being highlighted to reinforce the company’s overall vision and objectives.
Have a ‘welcome aboard’ party or celebration of the promotion. Schedule time for fun. Ice-breaker exercises, a new group project, or even a cooking class will allow the team to get to know the newbie as a fellow human who is willing to chop the onions and ease tensions of peers who were not promoted.
Integrate with the team
Making a new team member feel part of the team is crucial. This will promote a sense of belonging and increase morale and productivity for the group as a whole. Find a way for each current team member to spend time with the new person to explain their current roles and responsibilities. Schedule time for one-on-one meetings for orientation and training.
Make sure to check in with the team after the announcement of an upcoming change. Allow private meeting time for those who want to air their concerns privately. Show confidence that the team will be stronger because of the new member or promotion/personnel change.
There are a number of tools that can help manage the change – whether it’s a process, personnel, or visionary/cultural. Using management tools helps ensure efficient change management – a structured approach for ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented and that the lasting benefits of change are achieved.
- Flowcharts/ Process Maps
- D.K.A.R. Analysis (for earning the support of staff)
- Culture Mapping
- Force Field Analysis (analyze forces for and against change)
- Stakeholder Analysis
- Metrics and Data Collection and Analysis
- Project Plan
- A.P.I.D. (to define decision accountability)
The list goes on, but whatever the change is, there is a tool out there to help ensure the change proposed is a well-thought-out and executed plan and considers the far-reaching effects.
Life is unpredictable and change is certain. Some of the best and seemingly worst things that happen in life come unexpectedly. Some things that look bad at first glance can turn out to be a gift in the end.
Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear a path.