We were having a discussion about change on my RenewYou course the other day (there’s a lot of it about at the moment!) Women come on RenewYou when they want to make changes in their life so I was delivering a session on the psychological impact of change on individuals, (more on this here in Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?)
Individuals and Change
I was making the point that, when we as individuals decide to make a significant change, for those close to us or who work closely with us, our decision to change is a change in their lives over which they have no control. And when we feel we have no control over change we instinctively want to resist it.
If we don’t let the appropriate people in our lives know what we are doing then we can expect them to be potential saboteurs of the change we want to make. They may not even realise they are doing it. But one thing is for sure, if you don’t give them information, communicate with them, they won’t be allies.
Change in the Workplace
Our discussion then became more wide ranging and we began to discuss our experiences of organisational change. Why, asked my group, do senior managers start well but then stop communicating with staff?
I suspect it’s because they themselves are also going through the change process as change may be imposed on them (as in redundancies because of the economic situation) and they are coping with their own feelings. Also, we expect senior managers to have the answers, to know what is going on.
Having been on both sides of the equation I can tell you that they often don’t know what is going on! They know the end result required, i.e. saving money, but the route may be far from clear. Fearful of giving the wrong answers they go to ground and give none; they stop communicating. Bad move, as nature abhors a vacuum and it will be filled! Often with misinformation and rumour.
Coincidentally, this discussion was almost mirrored on the BBC this morning as they talked to two experts on organisational psychology and change and why change caused us so much stress. A recent survey has shown stress to be the biggest cause of lost working days. Lack of communication was cited as the top reason. Why, asked the interviewer, does knowing more about what is going on help keep stress levels down?
The experts didn’t have much time to respond but this is the answer. Once we have the facts we can take back some control, we can decide how we are going to react. When we’re not told what is going on we’re being treated like children. And guess what? Treat adults like children and you’ll get some childlike behaviour back! Not knowing makes us stressed as we imagine so much worse (magical thinking) and feeling stressed lowers our immunity to the usual bugs and ailments doing the rounds. Even if we think we’re coping well the chances are, if we’re stressed, we’ll end up taking time off for a minor complaint when in normal circumstances we’d womanfully struggle on!
Free Guide for Managers on Change
I have written a guide for managers who have to manage staff through change; I run change seminars within organisations for both managers and staff (any gender!) who are undergoing change. I also worked as project lead for two organisations undergoing huge change: the book is a result of my experiences but, knowing how busy managers are, it’s a short, easy read yet contains everything you need to know!
If you’d like a free copy, and you are a newsletter subscriber, simply go to the contact page on my site and let me know. If you are looking for support within your own organisation, or personally please call on 01761438749, or also use the contact page.
Are you in the midst of significant change? How is it for you? If you’re a manager do you feel you have sufficient support and information? If you are an employee what’s it like for you? Do you know enough about what is happening and why? If you run your own business what’s the biggest problem you face? Please do share your stories!
Also, here you can find a free fact sheet on work related stress from CIPD but you’ll need to register – it’s free.
Photo Credit: Omacaco
Posted on October 5th, 2011 by Jane