As written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in Frankenstein, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” And yet change is inevitable. Not only in our day to day lives, but also in our workplaces. While some changes bring about positive progress, some changes at their onset, can seem negative and overwhelming. In a business environment, changes can be something long-thought out and planned or seemingly an overnight decision that even upper management is not expecting. Regardless, good managers should ensure they keep open lines of communication with their team.
Some types of workplace side that affect employees are a physical move and a new management structure or new supervisor. Think about the last time you and your family packed all your belongings and moved. The organization, implementation, and strategy required to not be living amongst a maze of boxes for months on end likely caused some stress. If you had children or pets in the equation, think back to how they reacted not only to their new surroundings and pared down access to their things until boxes were unpacked. Much in the same way, a move of locale for an organization can be quite disruptive. Think about moving into a bigger space. Perhaps that means more sound traveling or a greater number of people in the space; these factors can be stressful in a work environment until employees settle into their new space and get accustomed to their new surroundings.
A change in management structure or supervisor can be another workplace change that affects employees. Most employees see this change (even if it works out to be better in the long run) to be unwelcome and stressful at first. Even employees who are unhappy with their current supervisor can view a newcomer as something to be feared as they must now learn this new person’s management style and dynamic within the organization. On the flip side, employees who felt very comfortable with their current management team who experience this change can have just as much anxiety and stress over the new dynamic a new supervisor brings.
While there are plenty of other changes that may occur in the workplace that affect employees, there are some that have an even greater impact on managers. These include workforce reduction, company reorganization, and company acquisition/being acquired. Not to say these changes don’t have an impact on employees, however, managers tend to bear the brunt of these changes. For example, a reduction in workforce means a reduction in production whilst expectations typically stay the same. This can cause anxiety among a manager’s direct reports and can add to the stress of the overall situation.
In this fast-paced world company acquisitions seem to headline the business section of the paper daily. This means companies are often in a state of flux whether they were the acquired company getting folded into an already established organization that may not be similar to their current environment or are acquiring a new host of employees and products from another company they have purchased. These situations can be extremely stressful for management as positions at that level are often consolidated and can mean a loss of employment, change of responsibilities or compensation, or a new, higher standard of performance expectations at some point in the process. Along the same lines, reorganization can land even the most prepared and organized manager in a situation where their number of reports has substantially increased, or their responsibilities have significantly changed to be outside of their comfort zone.
Change is good. It’s the process that moves us forward as a species and allows us to be innovative. Despite that, it’s easy to see why change may not be quickly embraced by employees. Fear of change oftentimes holds people hostage until they can gain the strength and tools required to find the “new normal.” A good manager can easily communicate the reasons for and methods of change in a workplace. Citing statistics of improved production because of an acquisition of a company with a technology their company needs for example. Or sharing the ways in which the change can keep the company current and viable in the marketplace. Reassuring employees that change also brings about opportunities for growth, development, and future success can help a strong team leader encourage even the most hesitant of employees to become more accepting of the change. Reminding these particular employees that areas in which they are strong can be utilized in new ways will help provide the confidence boost needed for a more positive reaction to change.
As always, a good leader will do their best to keep the communication lines open and evaluate both the positive and negative impacts of change within their team. In doing so, it can allow a manager to find new and creative ways to navigate through the metaphorical “baggage” change creates as they lead their team to a new and better place.
Understanding the impact of change in the workplace and learning the tools to lead your company through that change will make for a stronger leader. To learn more about managing change, and how the Front Line Leadership Program can transform your organization, contact Robert Winter at 832-483-5535 or fill out the contact form on our contact page. Impactful strategies for successful leaders start at Front Line.