As previously discussed in The Impact of Change in The Workplace, change can be difficult in the workplace for both employees and managers. While change can bring about positive progress in a company, overcoming the stress, anxiety, and resistance can be a hard summit to climb. A good manager/leader will need tools to help lead their team to the other side of change.
To best understand strategies of leading your organization through a time of change, we must break down change into phases. This will allow you to best understand your employees and management’s feelings and behaviors during a period of change.
The six stages of change can best be described as a bell curve. We’re all familiar with the shape and understand the low and high end of it. Imagine the low end of your “stages of change” bell curve as the lowest point. This is stage occurs at the announcement of change and is aptly labeled “shocked.” Your employees will likely experience an overwhelming sense of fear and exhibit a paralyzed or numb reaction.
As the information has a chance to really sink in, we move into stage #2, “Confusion.” Thoughts begin to race, confusion sets in and the foremost question in everyone’s mind is “Why?” and they resulting behaviors tend toward close-mindedness and suspicion. Moving right along, we find ourselves in the “Resistant” stage. Stage #3 can be a difficult one to navigate for even the best-trained managers because with it comes anger and frustration that often is displayed with behavior like blaming and defiance, leading us straight into the beginning of the upturn on our bell curve into stage #4, “Discouragement.” The quiet withdrawal and potentially subsequent absenteeism or unproductiveness may seem disheartening to even the best of managers, but hold tight, you’re almost through it.
Good training can help a leader navigate their team through stage four on onto stage #5 “Adaptability” with little difficulty. While moving from that sense of confusion to hopefulness and positive energy can be a bit harried, it’s a positive sign that progress is being made. Continued use of the strategies for change will result in a powerful push to stage #6 “Integration.” By this point, your team has reached the summit and the view is grand. They are renewed and positive and comfortable with the change. You’ll see a greater wave of openness and contribution getting the team back into a place of productive and positive movement.
To understand what triggers the stages of change, it’s important to explain why people resist change in the first place. Some examples are:
- The purpose or need for change seems unclear
- The majority or employees or supervisors don’t believe change is necessary
- Employees aren’t involved in the planning stages
- Poor communication- especially when the change is not explained properly
- Changes occur at a pace not appropriate for the implementation of said change
- The change seems a threat to job security, position, responsibility, or peer relationships
- There is a lack of trust or respect between management and employees
Understanding those triggers, it’s important that leaders have the tools needed to combat the Stages of Change. A good leader will be clear about the timeline for change. Communicating the change clearly and effectively with a clear and concise timeline will help ease your team into change will sidestepping some resistance triggers. Make sure to assign the right people to the appropriate tasks to ensure success in implementing the new change. Ensure you make time to listen to and address all questions and concerns. Enlisting an open-door / collaboration policy will go a long way in quelling any worries and concerns your employees may have while still promoting a positive and helpful transition period. Offer evaluation checkpoints along your plan’s timeline to engage active participation in the change and listen to suggestions of employees as you go. Making adjustments based upon suggestions will foster a positive environment of natural and regular change. Showing flexibility where you can demonstrate an openness to change and sets a good example. As conflicts arise (as we know they are prone to do), it’s important to address and resolve them in a constructive and positive way. (To learn more about conflict resolution, go here to see how Front Line Leadership Program can help.)
Last but not least, a great manager always makes time to check in with their employees, mitigate the conflict, soothe the worries change brings, and show appreciation for great work. Whether it be a privately emailed kudos or a team roundtable cheer, showing your team that you value them and their efforts goes a long way to accepting change without resistance.
Strong leaders navigate workplace change like a mountain guide leads their pack to the stunning views of the summit. To learn more about managing change in your team 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.