Let's Talk About Organizational Change Management

By Nina Segura: 

A few years ago, our client was faced with a problem. One day, her coworker called and said that she just heard that the "powers that be" were in a meeting and that they were discussing big changes that were to occur within the organization. She heard something about being bought out and just then her stomach began to turn and her heart started racing. Although she thought, that this was not happening. Later that day she was called in to her leader's office. It wasn't gossip. Her company was being acquired.

We shared the below change curve for her to identify where she was within the change and to use with her team. As she met with her team to discuss the upcoming changes, she noticed that some were scared, others were angry and yet others were excited. She was about to learn first-hand about the range of emotions that are experienced during a major organizational change and the impact these emotions may have on the outcome.

Change is a process and has various stages that both the individual and the organization will go through. By understanding the emotions that are part of the stages, leaders can help themselves and others throughout the implementation of change. It is important as a Leader, that you model the behavior you are wanting to see in your team. Remember, if you don't take care of yourself first, you will not be able to effectively help your team.

Stage 1: Shock: Employees are often shocked or surprised by the change. They wonder, "Why?" and "What's going to happen?" Performance may initially decrease sharply, however the lack of productivity is usually brief. As a leader be patient during this phase.

Stage 2: Denial: Many employees will enter into a phase of denial where they may minimize or deny that the change will even occur. They think, "Oh, that won't affect me" or "It will never happen." As a result, there is usually an increase in productivity to the level it was prior to the change trigger. In this phase it is important to stay consistent with the change message.

Stage 3: Anger and/or Depression: Employees begin to wonder what their role in the change will be, question their ability to make the necessary change, and may feel anxious about their future. Self-doubt is at the highest point and productivity decreases to an all-time low. Remember to not take any of this personally and if you're feeling this way remember no feeling last forever.

Stage 4Acceptance: A more optimistic mood occurs when the employee acknowledges that the change is inevitable and decides to work with the change. They begin to understand the reason why the change is occurring and what their role is. Productivity begins to increase.

Stage 5: Experimentation: Employees begin testing new behaviors and skills required for the change. As employees test new behaviors they begin to discover which behaviors are effective and which are not. They begin to feel more hopeful and confident. Productivity is typically inconsistent as employees test and develop new skills. Some days we will be more productive and some days we won't because we are trying to figure out what works and what doesn't.

Stage 6: Discovery: The employee's process of identifying what works helps them to begin to assign meaning to the new situation. The employees begin to understand why certain behaviors are effective while others are not. This understanding allows the employee to take more control over their actions and they begin to be more strategic in their thinking and behaviors. Confidence continues to grow and anxiety is replaced with excitement. Productivity increases.

Stage 7: Adoption: The final stage occurs when the employee has taken ownership of their new skills and behaviors. Confidence and competence increase and their new way of doing things become natural. The old behaviors have been successfully replaced with new behaviors.

It is important to note that not all employees go through all of the stages of the Change Curve. Some will go from Stage 2 to Stage 4. Others may remain in one stage longer than another. The key is understanding what stage your team are in and to validate their feelings as being part of the normal process of change. Acknowledging your employees' emotions will also help you in determining how and when to communicate particular information, as well as knowing the amount of support they may need. It is also important, as Leaders, to discuss your own feelings with trusted mentors and key allies.

I am happy to report that despite our client's initial feelings of anger, fear and disbelief (as well as some expected resistance!) her company successfully made the transition! Addressing the employee's emotions empathetically and effective communication were two of the critical keys in achieving this success. We've had some great success with this tool, let us know how this works out for you!

"When leading change I have many conversations. Often with other people. Thank you for joining in on the conversation!"

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Date Posted: 
7 Jan 2015 - 6:30pm