Change can be psychologically challenging. There are strategies employers can take to soften its effects.
For many people, change is a time of fear of the unknown and loss of control. In the absence of knowing where to turn for emotional support when workplace change is expected to happen or has happened, employees who are worried about the change, or who perceive that the change will adversely impact them, typically engage in sharing their distress at the water cooler, or behind closed doors, or with family and friends.
Without specific strategies aimed at helping employees to cope psychologically with change, there is a missed opportunity to maximize a successful transition within organizations. Hence, time is wasted by employees in fretting and speculating, which ultimately impacts workplace productivity.
With the growing emphasis on mental health and wellness in the workplace, it makes sense that the design of major change in the workplace should incorporate a component aimed at assisting employees with the psychological aspects of change.
There are some practical and easy to implement strategies that employers can take up. To develop the right mix of strategies to fit your organization can be undertaken by engaging the organization’s wellness committee if you have one, or HR and/or Employee Assistance staff.
Strategies to Get You Going
Have a Plan to Help Employees with Transition
√ When plans are being developed for new ways of doing work, a re-organization, a significant redefining of roles and responsibilities, a new process or the use of new technology, such plans should incorporate strategies that will be implemented to support the affected employees to cope with the psychological impacts of the workplace change. Identifying and including at the front end, a set of strategies to assist employees with adapting to change, acknowledges that, indeed, there are psychological dimensions to be addresses whenever people are faced with major change.
Awareness Raising on the Nature of Change and How to Adapt
√ One strategy for addressing the psychological challenges of change is to normalize the reactions and sentiments that employees may be experiencing. To do this, group sessions could be held to explain how change affects people differently; how, when change comes, it is a time of transition; how there can be a grieving process as one adjusts to the new order of things; and so forth.
√ Apart from offering such information through group sessions, it can also be delivered though an on-line e-module especially in circumstances where there are branch offices and/or not all those affected by change are housed in one geographic location.
Forums for Feedback and Support
√ Periodically engaging employees who have been impacted by the change offers employees an opportunity to advise on what’s working and what may need adjusting. This is not only a useful way to monitor and identify continuous improvement in relation to the change being implemented but, it enables employees to feel that they are integral to successful implementation of the change. This is an important feature to gain buy-in. At the same time, it is also a way to gage where employees are at in their journey to adapt and to direct them to where they might obtain further support to fully adjust.
√ The frequency of seeking feedback will depend on the nature and scope of the change.
√ The actual approach to obtaining the feedback can range from surveys, to one-on-one interviews, to focus group sessions depending on the availability of resources, the number of employees affected, whether there are branch offices at various locations, and so forth.
√ Helping employees adapt to workplace change is a shared responsibility between employer and employee. Employers can make available a list of resources that can assist employees with change. This can include educational material on the subject of change such as books, websites, and videos that employees can access. To get you started, a short list of resources is provided at the end of this article.
√ For employees who may be experiencing emotions such as anxiety, stress, disappointment, anger or resistance, employers can provide them with a list of local community resources to strengthen physical, mental and emotional wellness such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.
One-on-one Coaching and Counselling
√ Making available to employees a confidential, one-on-one opportunity to express and seek help with issues they are facing in relation to workplace change can be a way to assist those who continue to struggle with the change.
Clearly, there are ways in which to address employee fear and resistance to change and their effects on the workplace. Collectively, these strategies reinforce each other and provide concrete tools for supporting mental health and wellness during periods of organizational change.
- Bridges, William. Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Da Capo Press, 2004.
- Clark, David A. PhD. The Anxious Thoughts Workbook. New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2018.
- Ireland, Barbara. How To Stop Negative Thoughts. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
- Williams, Mark and Danny Penman. Mindfulness An Eight-Week Plan For Finding Peace In A Frantic World. Rodale Inc., 2012.
Websites and Apps
- Action For Happiness App: https://www.actionforhappiness.org/smartphone-app
- Oxford Mindfulness YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/OxfordMindfulness/playlists
- The Centre For Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford Medicine: http://ccare.stanford.edu/about/mission-vision/
Marianne Farag, Inner-Peace Specialist is a public speaker and author whose workshops equip people with techniques and strategies to maintain their inner-peace in the face of work-related stress, anxiety and conflict. To learn more, check-out Marianne’s website, Sublimity: Pathways to Peace (http://sublimitypathways.com). Marianne can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.