A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “change management”

5 Myths About Organizational Change

Myth v fact

There are few words that are as dreaded by employees as “organizational change.”  But is the fear justified – or is it the result of some all too common misperceptions by change leaders?

Based on my research and practice, I’ve identified five common myths about organizational change:  what it is, why it often fails, and what to do instead.

Myth #1:  Change resistors must be silenced.  According to many change leaders, organizational change will only succeed IF you have “the right people on the bus.”  In other words, any employees – regardless of their positions on their organizational hierarchy or tenure with the company – must “get on board” or risk being removed from the organization.

Why This Is a Myth:  For the most part, change resistors usually have some very good reasons to support their reluctance to fully embrace the proposed changes.  Why would any change leader ignore their experience and insights?

What to Think Instead:  Change resistors’ ideas should be considered because they can forewarn of potential obstacles that can sabotage the change initiative.  Plus these resistors can potentially become some of the company’s best change advocates IF the change leaders address their fears and concerns.  Click here for more information on what I call the “Change Resistance Zoo.”

Myth #2:  If you present a logical argument, then people will change.  Business tends to be driven by quantitative metrics focused on achieving tangible results – which tend to be the primary focus of any change initiative.

Why This Is a Myth:  If only human beings would consistently behave in a “rational” or “logical” way – but it’s not in our DNA.  While human beings are logical and capable of rational decision-making, we are emotional beings as well.  Our behaviors are ruled by our beliefs, values, and the all-important WIIFM:  “what’s in it for me.”

What to Think Instead:  Effective change leaders focus on both the tangible and intangible aspects of a change initiative.  Employees’ fears stemming around potential job loss, demotion, or even closing of their office location must not only be addressed, but also incorporated within the strategic action plan.  You can’t ask workers to embrace the destabilization of their work environment without addressing the question of what’s in it for them as a result.

Myth #3:  Change occurs in isolation.  Organizational change can be compartmentalized, which makes it much easier to forecast any potential effects on other areas of the business.

Why This Is a Myth:  Organizations are constantly evolving, cross-functional, intradependent entities.  As a result, changes in one part of the organization can (and will) have effects on seemingly unrelated aspects of the business.

What to Think Instead:  Organizational changes affect the company’s lifeblood on strategic, operational, and tactical levels.  A “tweak” in a company’s product can (and will) affect not only the manufacturing process, but also the sales, human resources, customer service, and marketing functions.  A seemingly “little” change that can wreak havoc in a company’s short- and long-term functioning.  Think outside the box of compartmentalized change and consider the obvious and not-so-obvious consequences.

Myth #4:  To create transformational change, you must bring in outsiders to lead it.  Because the company’s culture is often the target of transformational change, the only way to get a “fresh perspective” is to bring in change leaders from outside the organization – maybe from the same industry, but maybe not.

Why This Is a Myth:  This is probably the most pervasive myth in transformational organizational change – and perhaps the reason why over 70% of change initiatives fail.  Outsiders may have new ideas BUT they also are not intimately aware with how things currently work in the organization and why they are being done in this particular manner.  As a result, there is often a lack of appreciation for the company’s history and an ignorance of the power of the company’s formal and informal network leaders.

What to Think Instead:  Consider tapping your current workforce for ideas on how to transform the organization – rather than thinking of them as change resistors.  Current employees have a great deal of intangible but persuasive capital within the company:  not only do they understand what is currently happening (which means that they are uniquely qualified to highlight the underlying problems), but they usually have some great (but often untapped) ideas on how to improve things.

Myth #5:  You can create change by sheer force of will.  If you really want to change, then you will be able to change – it’s all about willpower.

Why This Is a Myth:  If only change could be accomplished simply by willing it to happen.  It can’t.  Successful changes take place by moving through the transition period connecting the past to the desired future – no one navigates this “no man’s land” without a clear road map and the necessary resources to reach the destination.

What to Think Instead:  Change leaders need to provide the Four R’s throughout the planning and implementation process in order to ensure that successful movement through the transition period.  A Road map that outlines the desired path to achieve the goal, the potential effects throughout the organization, and built-in flexibility to stay on-track when obstacles emerge.  A compelling Reason for the change initiative that addresses tangible financial needs as well as the intangible emotional needs of employees.  Sufficient Resources to support employees as they move through the transition period – including manpower, relevant technology, sufficient financial resources, and emotional support.  Rewards that celebrate the short-term wins along the way to transformation; this can be financial or (perhaps even more important) time off or public recognition for employees’ often Herculean efforts.

Organizational change is not for the feint of heart.  It can be confusing, confounding, frustrating, and terrifying.  The first step is to debunk these five prevalent myths about the process of change.  By replacing them with more proactive beliefs, both change leaders and change targets will be more likely to listen to the arguments as to why they must temporarily destabilize their current work environment in order to create one that is better for both the organization and them.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

Listen to the Naysayers: How Resistors Can Actually HELP During Organizational Change

Change Resistence in Business

Change resistance.   It’s the bane of change leaders’ existence…but should it be?  Could change resistance actually be a BLESSING?!  And if you are the target of an organizational change initiative, should you keep your doubts and concerns to yourself?

These are some of the fundamental challenges facing change leaders and change targets when an organization is attempting massive change.

In talking to change leaders over the years, one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen is the anger that change leaders feel toward any employee who resists or even questions the veracity of the need for change OR the method of changing OR even the potential outcomes of that change.

A common refrain by change leaders is, “Get the right people on the bus!  We only want employees who embrace change – anybody else is a change resistor and we need to get them OFF the bus!”

I remain shocked that a change leader would discount the insights and concerns of employees when you are asking them to fundamentally shift their work processes, assumptions, and routines.  As the photo above says, “I don’t think so!”

The Change Resistance Zoo

Change resistance is defined as efforts focused on impeding, redirecting, rejecting, or stopping the change (Coetsee, 1999).  It is often thought as being overt…but it can also be very effectively done through covert actions.

Although change resistance is viewed as a “bad thing” that needs to be eliminated from the workplace, employee resistance to proposed organizational changes can also be a very GOOD thing because:

 “When resistance does appear,…it should not be thought of as something to overcome…Instead, it can best be thought of as a useful red flag – a signal that something is going wrong.”   (Lawrence, 1954)

In general, a certain amount of resistance should be anticipated when an organization demands that its workers change their working behaviors, processes, or even attitudes.  But these responses will vary based on their view of the changes being asked of them.

Therefore there is no ONE change resistant response or behavior.  What employees will exhibit as resistance will vary greatly.  For change leaders and change targets, it’s important to understand these differences.

Based on my research, I’ve developed six attitudes toward change in what I call “The Change Resistance Zoo.”  Each type views change somewhat differently, which consequently leads to distinctly different behaviors and responses throughout a change initiative.

Ostrich

The Ostrich.  The employee who avoids change at all costs is like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.  Ostriches staunchly deny what is going on in the organization and may even view the current status quo as being “not that bad…really.”  Rather than change, Ostriches will often resign from an organization – either when changes are anticipated OR after the change initiative is lost.

What’s Bad About Ostriches:  These are the die hard change resistors who dislike any degree of change to the status quo.  They are in denial and will do anything to avoid making the change.  This is particularly bad for the organization if one of your key employees is an Ostrich.

What’s Good About Ostriches:  Even though they dislike changes to their status quo, Ostriches are also smart enough to realize that the changes are going to happen – so it’s better for them (and the company) if they find a more suitable work environment with another employer.

 

MoleThe Mole.  The Mole is sneaky about refusing to go along with the changes.  Rather than being upfront about their doubts, the Mole goes underground and covertly sabotages the changes.  This could be through missed deadlines or by spreading negative gossip about how the change is progressing or what it really means for employees.

What’s Bad About Moles:  Moles can sow seeds of discord and fear among not only their immediate coworkers, but throughout the organization.  Because their resistant tactics are covert, Moles can be difficult to spot:  there’s always a “logical” excuse for a missed deadline and it’s rare to catch them as the source of misinformed or outright malicious gossip.

What’s Good About Moles:  Consider the option that the Mole has a good reason for refusing to change.  Even though they can be toxic in the workplace, Moles serve as an indication that something has not been considered when planning and implementing the change initiative.

 

TigerThe Tiger.  Unlike the covert activities of the Mole, the Tiger is vocal and aggressive in resisting the changes.  Tigers will argue with change leaders by challenging their ideas and assumptions about the changes.  Their goal is to attack everything related to the change initiative so that it will not proceed.

What’s Bad About Tigers:  They are disruptive and combative, which can make other employees uncomfortable – regardless of whether those employees support or disagree with the changes.  Unlike Moles, it is easy to spot a Tiger – but it’s harder to deal with them in a rational, calm way.

What’s Good About Tigers:  The Tiger will let you know what is a contentious aspect of the change initiative – there’s no guesswork involved.  Try to discuss the Tiger’s concerns in private (so that they don’t damage employee morale) and remain calm.  There is a good chance that the area of disagreement might be eligible for some sort of compromise that creates a win-win outcome in the proposed changes.

 

DogThe Dog.  The Dog will never directly challenge the activities or expectations in the change initiative – that is, unless they’re part of a group of more vocal employees.  Believing that there is “power in the pack,” Dogs resist the change initiative through a group effort – and they’re not afraid to “fight dirty.”

What’s Bad About Dogs:  Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they can also be terrifying in an angry pack – particularly a pack that is united in staunchly fighting the change initiative, in whole or in part.  Because change is frightening, some employees may go along with the “pack” because they fear being ostracized by their peers or coworkers.

What’s Good About Dogs:  Because Dogs are part of a pack, swaying the opinion of one Dog toward the change initiative can lead to the entire group becoming more receptive to the changes.  Also, if there is a group of employees who have banded together to fight some aspect of the change initiative, this is a clear indication that the change initiative most likely has unintentional deleterious effects for a subset of the workforce.

 

OwlThe Owl.  The Owl is usually an experienced employee – someone who has been with the company for a long time or is recognized as an expert in their field.  Because they are wise and knowledgeable, they will point out minute flaws in any aspect of the change initiative.  The challenge is that Owls believe that, although it is their duty to identify problems, they consider that any active involvement in remedying those problems is “beneath” them.

What’s Bad About Owls:  Owls can appear to be condescending, “know-it-alls” who focus too much on the details – but miss the big picture.  By overlooking the broader outcomes associated with the change initiative, Owls can develop tunnel vision that obscures any information that is not within their area of expertise or interest.  This can be particularly damaging if an Owl is selected to lead a change initiative.

What’s Good About Owls:  Subject matter expertise and knowledge are essential criteria for an employee to be considered an Owl.  As a result, they have a breadth and depth of knowledge about how the changes will affect their department, unit, or location.  Listen to them!  But also encourage them to take the lead in improving the steps in the change initiative, so that they can mentor others to create the necessary changes.

 

SnailThe Snail.  The Snail just…kind of…creeps along…with their tasks.  Their goal is to avoid making any waves.  This reaction to change is usually based on fear about the potential consequences, so they will make every effort to avoid detection.

What’s Bad About Snails:  It’s difficult to understand how a Snail feels about a change initiative; because they tend to “fly under the radar,” they are often overlooked or tend to avoid discussing their opinions in meetings.  They do their jobs in a way that makes their performance less likely to stand out from the crowd – for either good or bad results.

What’s Good About Snails:  Snails will continue to get their work done – but don’t expect them to wholeheartedly embrace the changes.  Because the work is still getting done, this can be a good thing for consistency during a change initiative.  Also, snails won’t “make a scene” or add to the disruption in a workplace undergoing change.

Identifying an employee as one of these “zoo animals” does not mean that change leaders should attempt to squash their responses.  Quite the opposite:  change leaders should view their reactions to the proposed changes as red flags or beacons warning about aspects of the change initiative that may have been overlooked.

Change resistors can actually prevent a change initiative from derailing – IF they are respected and listened to.

5 Quick Tips to Benefit From
the Insights of Change Resistors

Change leaders can only observe the behaviors of these animals in the change resistance zoo in response to their requests to change – but it takes a little more digging to unmask the why behind these perspectives.

The following five tips will help you better understand the reasons behind change resistant employees’ behaviors and then adapt your management style to help guide them toward acceptance of the desired changes.

Tip #1:  Communicate the practical economic reasons for the change, but don’t forget to include emotional appeals to employees’ values.  This transforms the change initiative from a cold, quantitative rationale to one that is inspirational and motivating.

Tip #2:  Always listen to employees’ concerns before, during, and after a change initiative.  Resistant behaviors and words that are not acknowledged can potentially undermine the desired changes.

Tip #3:  Respect employees’ fears about the changes by taking an evolutionary approach to change.  Rather than focusing on what will change, also highlight what will remain the same.  This provides a sense of security for workers.

Tip #4:  Include employee input throughout the change initiative.  Don’t just “spring” changes on employees!  Instead, frame the problem that needs to be addressed and ask key employees and network leaders for their opinions on how to remedy the problem.  In nearly all cases, this will involve a change of some kind – but it will be embraced because the employees had input into how this will be achieved.

Tip #5:  Focus on the resistance as a potential treasure trove of new ideas.  Tap down any feelings of anger and resentment that your workers are not immediately embracing the changes.  Remember that it is impossible to predict every possible outcome or effect of a change initiative – so, listen to your change resistors for insights that you might have overlooked (and which could potentially sabotage the changes).

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

“Should do” vs. “Want to do”: Why Both Are Needed to Sustain Change

Change Button - BlueChange is a natural part of life.  In fact, many believe that change has become the new status quo.

But changing is rarely easy for the people who have to modify – sometimes radically – the way that they do things, their self-image, or even their goals.

In organizational change, the underlying reason is usually in response to shifts in the external environment.  The examples are seemingly endless:  A new competitor has entered the marketplace and “stolen” some of your customers.  Or perhaps a new law has drastically challenged your current payroll strategy.

Organizational change can also be in response to internal shifts, such as a new vision, business model, or target market.

But, whether the reason for the change is external or internal, the arguments made in support of the change are usually based on what the company “should” do – whether they want to or not.

And therein lies the rub:  organizations can only change when its people change.

When demands are made for people to change their normal behaviors or habits, there is an understandable pushback.  What is often overlooked is that this so-called “change resistance” can provide valuable insights into the nature of the change initiative.

But these insights can only occur if we actively solicit employee feedback before, during, and after the change.

Unfortunately, in most change initiatives, many of these change resistors are ostracized or transitioned out of the organization.

As human beings, initial resistance is somewhat of a hardwired response to change.  Just like the 3-year-old who crosses his arms and shouts “No!” when it’s time to go to bed, the logical arguments (or why sleep is necessary in order to avoid crankiness and unhappiness) usually fall on deaf ears.

In other words, although we know that the child should go to bed, he doesn’t want to go to bed.  Even though he might be forced to go to bed, it is a time-consuming, emotionally draining ordeal for both parent and child.

The same can be true of employees who are told what they should do as a part of the change initiative…but really don’t want to do.

Addressing what we should do as well as what we want to do should be an important consideration in any change initiative.

Addressing the “Should Do” of Change

Corporate leaders often have very logical, reasonable, and comprehensive reasons to change the long-term strategy or daily operations of their organizations.  They often argue their case via spreadsheets, pie charts, bar graphs, trend charts, and any other data-driven tool that can support the rational reasons underlying the need to change.

While analysis is a critical part of the planning stage of any change initiative, the role of the change manager cannot rely on pure analysis to motivate workers to change.  Organizational change is a major undertaking that can take years to fully incorporate into the existing culture – and can be emotionally draining for the entire workforce.

Although threats of what could happen if the organization doesn’t change can initially inspire fear-based change, people don’t like to live their lives in fear.  The “doom and gloom” prophecies that threaten workers’ sense of security—either now or in the future – will often result in key employees and high achievers “jumping ship” to an employment situation that is less frightening.

To sustain the long-term motivation necessary to change an organization, the focus needs to shift from managing employees to change by telling them what they must do.  Instead, change leaders need to inspire employees and seek their participation in determining the best way to create the change as painlessly and effectively as possible.

The logical “should” of a change initiative is only one part of the change equation because intellectual arguments are insufficient to inspire workers to put forth the additional effort needed to transform the workplace.

Addressing the “Want to Do” of Change

People need to be motivated to change – and motivation is not only inherently internal, it is also emotional.

Addressing this “want to do” part of the change equation requires tapping into WIIFM:  “What’s In It For Me?”  Unless employees are confident that there will be a benefit to them as a result of the change, it is doubtful that they will commit wholeheartedly to the necessary actions that will radically transform the organization.

In contrast, employees will often “go the extra mile” when they understand the value of the change initiative AND they have participated in the planning and implementation activities related to that initiative.

When people participate in identifying what needs to change, they are more likely to embrace the necessary activities that will create that change.  After all, if it’s something that I recommended, then I have a vested interest in ensuring that it will lead to the desired outcome.

Puleo’s Pointers:  3 Ways to Inspire Employees to Change

  1. Take the time to involve employees in the planning stages of the change initiative.  Be sure that they represent the various functional areas of the organization and come from different levels within the organizational hierarchy.  Not only will this assist with employee buy-in, but it will also generate some insights into the implementation plan that can easily be overlooked by senior leaders who are not intimately involved with daily operations.
  2. Treat employees like adults, not children.  Relying solely on the “shoulds” of a change initiative is the equivalent of a parent dictating actions “because they said so.”  Pushback is inevitable.  Instead, recognize that your employees are your only non-duplicatable competitive advantage and they were hired because they have expertise to perform their jobs well.  Tap into that knowledge by respecting their input and concerns.
  3. Schedule two-way conversations that address employee needs and fears associated with the change.   Announcing the change via a lecture by the CEO or an article in the newsletter typify one-way communication.  Such messages to change can easily be interpreted as being talked at rather than talking with.  But two-way conversations in live town hall meetings or even discussion boards in a special change-related online chat room enable better identification of the workforce’s WIIFM’s – which can then be used to modify, expand, remove, or add programs to the change initiative that will better encourage workers to want to do what is necessary to create the necessary changes.

Although these three suggestions take time, they can create the foundation for tremendous future benefits in efficiency and effectiveness during the implementation phase.  Employee pushback and resistance may still occur, but, through the use of participative management in the planning phase, it tends to be much less intense.

While the decision to change might be logical, the act of changing can be highly emotional.  Some changes we should do, but we won’t actually do what is necessary unless we want to do it.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Why Change Is Chaotic: How Transformation Leads to Chaos (Webinar presented by Dr. Geri Puleo)

Many people believe that all change is inherently chaotic…but is it?  Transformational changes tend to be more chaotic due to the difficulties in navigating the transition period from what “was” to what “will be.”

This 7-minute “mini” webinar discusses why change and transition are not the same and how you can take the first steps to minimize your feelings of change-related chaos.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

The Real Costs of Burnout (Webinar presented by Dr. Geri Puleo)

Too often, burnout is considered to be an individual’s personal problem relating to his or her maladaptive response to stress.  Recent research has shown, however, that organizations considerably influence the degree of stress experienced in their workforces.  What is often not considered, however, are the financial costs that the organization must pay when their workers are burned out.  Unfortunately, there are few tools used to calculate these costs.

Previously I introduced some calculations in my mini-webinar, Why Burnout Matters.  In this 16-minute “mini” webinar, I’ll share some additional calculations to help you determine the real costs of employee burnout in your organization.  Some of these costs are direct, while others are indirect.  Considering the incredible expenses associated with burnout, isn’t it time that your organization steps up to the plate by taking proactive steps to stop burnout in its tracks?

For more information on these calculations, you can review the entire report at http://www.cgsst.com/stock/eng/doc272-806.pdf.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Burnout: The Silent Trap That KEEPS You Burned Out

Burnout has reached epidemic proportions in the modern workplace.  But did you know that burnout has a “boomerang” effect that can keep you burned out?

In this 7-minute “mini” webinar, I’ll discuss one of the most interesting findings in my research on burnout during organizational change:  residual burnout.  Even if you remove yourself from situations that contributed to your feelings of burnout, it takes an average of 2 years to fully recover from its deleterious effects.  During these 2 years, new events can trigger responses that pull you right back into burnout.  When this happens, full recovery from burnout might take even longer.

Coming up next:  Burnout During Organizational Change:  The B-DOC Model.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

TEDx Talk on Burnout and PTSD Passes 20,000 Views on YouTube – Thank You!!!

I just wanted to thank all of you who have watched my TEDx Talk (Burnout v. PTSD:  More Similar Than You Think…) on YouTube.  In just one year, this business video passed 20,000 views!

If you haven’t yet seen this TEDx Talk, you can view it by clicking on the video below.  (You can also access the video directly at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.)

As you know, I am a firm believer that burnout is affecting not only who we are as employees, but also how we work and react to each other both inside and outside the workplace.  I appreciate all the emails from viewers who have found some hope in my TEDx Talk – and I promise that I will continue researching not only what causes burnout, but also the best ways to overcome it.

Thank you once again for all your support and positive feedback.  I hope that one day we can create a workplace where burnout is nothing but a distant memory.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

The Paradox of Change and Stability

Island

We humans are funny animals.  We all want to move forward and grow…yet we don’t want to let go of the past or our current reality.

Ideally, we want to move to a new place…but not leave the old one.  And we tend to be impatient to get our results…but resistant to make the necessary changes.

Alas, as we all know, we can’t move forward without letting go of something from the past.

Change Without Stability

Research has repeatedly shown that changing everything at once inevitably leads to failure.  At worst, we’ve let go of the security of the status quo but haven’t yet created something new to replace it.  Unfortunately, this is the failing strategy that many companies use to introduce transformational change in the workplace.

Change requires embracing the paradox that the changes must coexist with a certain level of stability.  While letting go of the things that need to be changed, the core values must be kept intact.  This paradox reflects the very human need for growth with the equally important need for security.

Trying to change everything at once creates chaos, confusion, resistance, and (ultimately) failure.  Trust is destroyed between the change leaders and the change targets.  Resistance to new ideas becomes rampant.  Star performers leave for more supportive and less stressful cultures.  Future change is nearly impossible.

While change can be exciting and fuel growth, humans need to feel a certain level of security that some things can still be relied upon.  We require a map for the change journey, an action plan that propels us forward to a worthy goal or outcome and reinforces those policies, processes, procedures, relationships, and values that have been the foundation for past successes.

Chaos ensues when care has not been taken to analyze what has worked in the past – which is what should be retained as we move forward – as well as what no longer works and needs to be changed.  Planning also requires a solid understanding of why something no longer works so that iterations of that issue can be avoided as we move forward.

Knowing where we’re going requires knowing where we’ve been, where we are, and why we have chosen the new goal or destination.

Stability Without Change

Steadfastly relying on what worked in the past simply because it worked in the past is equally likely to lead to failure.  The modern workplace, global market, and changing buying patterns of customers (both B2C and B2B) necessitate change in the way we “do business.”

Many companies are slow to introduce change in the workplace.  Sometimes it’s due to fear that the changes won’t be accepted.  Sometimes it’s because senior leaders don’t have a solid understanding of how to effectively plan, implement, and evaluate a change initiative.  Still other times it’s due to arrogance or disbelief that the world in which the business operates has radically changed.

Flexibility and adaptability are critical capabilities for both survival and growth.  Merely surviving is the equivalent of standing still – but science has taught us that nothing ever stands still.  We are either moving forward or moving backward.  It is impossible to do things in the exact same way in the exact same place and in the exact same environment.

The visionaries within the company often are ignored and ridiculed when they provide information or trends that undermine the current way in which the company conducts its business.  But when the company finally acknowledges these warnings, these visionaries are usually long gone from the company – and are often working for their competitors.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Stability That Embraces Change

The most agile companies generally are based on a strong foundation of core values that direct their strategies, projects, and opportunities.  Their products might change.  Their messaging might change.  Their distribution channels might change.  But their brand (if solid) remains the same or even expands in its scope and depth.

Having a core foundation of values that resonate with the very human needs of the workforce (e.g., respect, integrity, commitment to excellence) will unleash the creativity and innovation of the workforce in moving forward.  These values provide the critical sense of security and stability that frees us to let go and move forward.

In other words, change is viewed as an evolutionary expansion of what is good in both the company and its people.  It is no longer something to be feared, but rather something to be enjoyed and embraced.

While it may seem to be counterintuitive, companies are better able to completely transform themselves when they move forward from a foundation of stability rather than jumping head first into the unknown.

The fundamental need for change/growth and stability/security is hardwired into humans.  It’s about time that change leaders acknowledge this reality so that their companies can adapt to a constantly changing world without demoralizing and burning out their workers.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

More Ways to Create a New Way to Work: Weekly “Mini” Webinars Launch in March 2015

Coming Soon

As an advocate for a better and more humane way to work for over 20 years, I’d like to thank all of you who have liked and/or subscribed to this blog.  I hope that you’ve been discovering some creative ways to build a more successful and happier way to work!

Beginning in March 2015, in addition to my weekly articles and Paradigm Shifters, I will be launching weekly “mini” webinars.  These short (5 minutes or less) videos and slide shows will be absolutely free.  Topics include burnout, change management, creativity, leadership, and other areas that can bring humanism back into the workplace.

Look for these “mini” webinars to launch next week – and feel free to comment or share.  Together we can create workplaces that are both humane and successful!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Fear, Control, and Change Resistance

Change resistance - Push-Pull

Views on change are as diverse as the people who are the change leaders or the “changees.”

The need for change can range from a mere “tweak” to a fundamental transformation of the current status quo.

Change leaders can sound the battle cry for urgency or strive to balance changes with some level of consistency.

The “changees” (or those who are being asked to change) can wholeheartedly embrace the new reality or dig in their heels by undermining and resisting anything remotely related to the change.

No matter what the reasons for the change or our role in making those changes, I’ve found that people have a paradoxical view on change:  they may say that they aren’t afraid to change, yet their initial responses tend to resist the recommended actions that are necessary to create that change.

Interestingly since the ability to change is now a highly valued characteristic in employees, I haven’t met anyone currently in the workforce who says that they don’t “like” change.  Across the board, everyone says that they are not afraid to change.

Yet change resistance continues to plague nearly every change initiative that is launched.

For example, a young manager was asked to streamline the process for training employees.  Taking the current materials and workbooks as a starting point, he was excited and confident that he could make a difference – his enthusiasm and commitment to the project were tangible.

But when a suggestion was made to consider foregoing printed materials in lieu of providing the information on thumb drives to employees and changing the training from onsite to online and making it “on demand” rather than on a set day and time, a huge “caution” flag was waved.  Why?

  • Perhaps he was afraid to change things too much.
  • Perhaps he was unsure of his ability to successfully coordinate activities with the IT department.
  • Perhaps he was concerned about a potentially larger workload as a result.
  • Or perhaps he just didn’t want to.

But is this an example of a deep rooted resistance to change – or is this a “normal” human reaction to a suggestion that was previously completely off his radar?

Expect So-Called “Change Resistance”

I believe that pushing back when asked to change is a completely normal reaction that should be anticipated by both change leaders and “changees.”  This is regardless of the scope of the desired changes.

Having researched the change phenomenon for over 15 years, I’ve discovered that the greatest level of change resistance tends to result from fear and a perceived loss of control.  When we are initially afraid of a proposed change, the fear manifested as “change resistance” is closely related to our need to feel a sense of control over ourselves and our surroundings.  This control is perceived to be threatened when asked to change.

In the previous example, the young manager was new to the organization and unaware of the politics within the culture.  He felt that it was better to tread lightly and not radically change things too much, rather than ‘go for it’ and risk being penalized or reprimanded.  Was his initial pushback really a classic case of change resistance?

When employees push back in response to requests to change, the leaders of the initiative tend to view this initial reserve as a major obstacle to creating the desired changes.  In fact, many change consultants advise companies to make sure that “the right people are on the bus” – but the result can be the loss of many previously high value employees who might have initially questioned the wisdom, action plan, or timeline of the proposed changes.

These downsizings send a loud and clear message to the surviving employees:  “Don’t question, don’t resist, just do it – even if you see challenges that we might not have considered.”

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to Recognize the Interplay Between Fear, Control, and Change Resistance    

Change resistance will always occur in varying degrees when an organization is attempting to change.  I would add that change resistance also occurs when an individual is trying to make changes in his or her life.  Successful change requires “letting go” and moving forward to an as yet unknown future.

No wonder it’s scary.

By recognizing what we are afraid of losing, it is much easier to understand why we resist the changes by attempts to control our environments.  Usually this is through keeping things the same as much and for as long as possible.  Instead of jumping into the pool, we first want to check the depth of the water, stick our toe in to feel the temperature, then (after our fears are allayed) jump in and (hopefully) enjoy the swim.

Although simplistic, this swimming pool analogy represents the employee reactions in many corporate change initiatives.

  • Advice to Change Leaders:  Always include the employees who are expected to implement the change initiative in the preliminary conversations relating to the need for change as well as the potential paths that can be taken to create that change.  This not only assuages employees’ fears of the unknown, but their input gives them a sense of control about the potential outcomes.
  • Advice to “Changees”:  When asked to change, stop to take a reading of your initial reaction.  Are you afraid?  If so, what specifically is so frightening about these changes?  Determine what you can control – even if it is only your perception and reaction to the change initiative.  No matter what the circumstance, the only thing that we ultimately control is how we respond to it.  This understanding is incredibly powerful in minimizing our fears and reminding us that we still have a choice to control our own lives. Change is the only way that both organizations and people can move forward.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

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