The modern workplace has significant levels of stress and conflict related to change-management and downsizing. Technological change can cause conflict, as can changing work methodologies. Sometimes change would come in the form of a new boss, with new ideas and new methodologies. Just reorganization alone, which is some workplaces tends to be almost chronic, leads to tremendous amounts of stress and conflict. While leadership is about change, change causes anxiety to many, and nothing is worse to productivity that extreme and disturbing anxiety in the workplace. This is when people constantly focus on their sources of anxiety (job loss, loss of power, loss of advantages) rather than on their own productivity and the success of the company over all.
Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they've lost control over their territory and power. It also creates excess uncertainty. If change feels extremely uncertain, then people will reject it. People will often prefer to remain in misery than to head toward an unknown. In life in general, as much as in the workplace, we all need a sense of safety and oftentimes with change, much unknown creates much irritability.
Any decisions that imposed on people suddenly will cause anxiety and distress.
Everything seems different. Routine, as much as complained upon, brings certainty and confidence to many. Sudden decisions will create much bitterness and talk in the hallways.
In departing from the past and moving towards newer regulations, many will worry about loss of respect, face and status. Perhaps there are things that they do not really know or not really good at, that were sort of protected by the older regulations. The concern would be that the newer regulations may expose inadequacies or incompatibilities.
Change also brings up concerns of being able to adapt to the newer requirements. Especially with technology, those that are not as technologically savvy may take longer to learn and feel extremely intimidated and agitated.
Many will worry that more will be required of them and are not sure how.
Resentments will come in two major forms: past resentments and present resentments.
Past resentments are sometimes staying put and quiet as long as everything is steady. But once anxiety is up and things are steady no longer, these old resentments may surface again and the older they are, they may be harder to resolve. New resentments may arise stemming from the newly created circumstances, oftentimes when older generation employees feel threatened by newer generation and feel that their knowledge and experienced are not valued or may not be valued in the newly created circumstances.
The threat of change and the anxiety it causes are more than understandable. Change is promising to some, vital to the organization, dangerous to others. Because of that, change requires proactive conflict management practices, in order to prevent escalation of conflict through change.
Here are some effective tips for leaders on successfully working through organizational change, without unnecessary drama:
1. Engage and Involve:
People tend to comply much more readily and easily if they feel a sense of ownership, rather than feeling that things are imposed on them. While clearly change IS imposed on the employees, it would be a god idea to engage them in the process, provide them with as much information and rationale as possible, in order to give them a sense of ownership rather than risk a sense of resentment.
2. Communicate, and Be Available to be Communicated With:
To keep your employees engaged, motivated and focused in a change-saturated environment, you will need to make yourself more available. This is good for you, because you want to be able to monitor first hand how things are managed under the organizational changes so that you can react quickly and effectively, and nip disasters in the bud. It is also good for your employees, because they will have questions, and they will need clarity and the worst possible situation for an employee in a change saturated environment is to feel that there is no one to talk to other than water cooler talk with other employees.
3. Clarify Roles and Rules:
There is no difference between bigger and smaller corporations when it comes to low levels of clarity in terms of the scope of employees' work or company policies. Regardless of the size of your organization, a lack of clarity will always lead to conflict. The rule of thumb when it comes to employees' scope of work and to company policies is "detail, detail, detail." Detail aids clarity. In every situation where things are defined in a vague or partially vague manner, messages are open not only to interpretation but also to negotiation and power struggles. This isn't because employees are necessarily trying to allocate more power to themselves (which may very well be the case, but it's not always) but because employees may truly make different assumptions as far as the scope of their work goes, what the policies are, and what is expected of them. When their perceptions of expectations, scope, and policies clash, they will interpret that clash in a personal manner, and conflict becomes inevitable. After all, when employees are unsure of what is expected of them, how can they be expected to perform in the best possible way? They can't, and that is why detail and clarity are so important.
4. Be Clear to Battle Fear
In departing from the past and moving toward newer regulations, many will worry about loss of respect, face, and status. One example of this could be a lack of skill or knowledge that was perhaps protected or hidden by older regulations, and an employee may fear that these inadequacies or incompatibilities are about to be exposed. Similarly, change also brings concerns of being able to adapt to the new requirements. This is especially true with technology. Those that are not as technologically savvy may take longer to learn new systems and feel extremely intimidated and agitated. Many will also worry that more will be required of them once the new changes are in place, and they are not sure how to meet those requirements.
The threat of change and the anxiety it causes are more than understandable. Change is promising to some, and perhaps vital to the organization, but it's dangerous to others. Because of that, change requires proactive conflict-management practices. In other words, management need to prevent conflict before it escalates. The Red-Shift Blue-Shift model, which we will talk about in greater detail later on, aims to do exactly that. This model assists organizations in creating a language of effective conflict management throughout the organization during times of change or turmoil, in order to proactively address conflicts when they are still small, to increase engagement, and to create a company culture of true teamwork.
5. Promote a Company Culture of Adaptability- and Demonstrate It Yourself
To do well as a leader within your company and to build an adaptable team, you need to be able to accomplish five things. For the most part, what that means is that you need to create a corporate culture that recognizes the opportunity in every challenge. As you accompany and support your employees through organizational change, remember that change related challenges are opportunities for growth, and highlight that in every conversation, meeting and communication. And furthermore, don't forget to believe in it yourself, truly and whole-heartedly.