You know major organizational changes are afoot. You’ve repeatedly told your team that such reforms are not far off and you’ve hinted at what may occur. You’ve said, “I don’t want you to be surprised.”
Yet despite your best efforts, the time has come to enact change. People are stunned. They seem frozen in fear and unwilling to engage you in addressing key issues constructively.
There’s no magic way to impose unsettling change on people so that they accept it with open arms. It’s normal to hit speed bumps along the way. You can help by navigating the group through four stages of dealing with change:
Denial. At first, team members cling to yesterday’s status quo. They pretend that they’re operating in a time warp where strategic threats, economic volatility or other nagging variables do not exist. Still, staffers maintain their cool and appear to listen rationally and nod in understanding as you plea for them to embrace change.
Resistance. The outward calm that characterized their denial has morphed into something more belligerent. Instead of brushing aside change, people start to lash out and assign blame for the disruptions that pelt them from all sides. They grieve for the simple, predictable past and feel scared and unsure of an uncertain future.
Resignation. Your consistent message (“Change is really happening, so let’s make the best of it”) sets in. Rather than keep resisting, the team begins to exhibit a grudging acceptance. Their attitude becomes, “There’s no sense fighting anymore.”
Determination. Thanks to your unshakable optimism and your commitment to update everyone on how changes are unfolding, teammates decide to buy in fully. They ally with you to ensure the transition flows smoothly and they take responsibility for their actions.
When employees share a difficulty they’re facing, don’t rush to play fixer. Your job is not to solve everyone’s problems. If you jump in and give advice, people may tune out. It’s better to ask, “How have you handled similar difficulties in the past?” As the employee compares the current situation with past challenges, instructive insights may surface. If the worker says, “I’ve never dealt with anything like this,” bat around solutions together.