Managing Fear of Change in the Workplace

Planning chart for business

There have been innumerable changes in the workplace in the last couple of years. Many of those changes were foisted upon employees who had given no more thought to working from home than they did working forty-five stories up atop a construction crane being buffeted by high winds. Fearing change is nothing new. But effectively managing that fear as a leader so that your team comes out on top (though not on a crane) through change in the workplace is something just about any leader can achieve.

Change can be a major opportunity for career growth and advancement, despite its challenges. However, employees are often afraid of big changes in an organization, preferring even a substandard status quo to the risks of a new reality. Knowing how to motivate and empower employees is vital for leaders of all levels, but it’s even more so during change in the workplace – no matter what kind of change occurs.

Organizational Change

Organizational change is the act of modifying key components of a business’ strategy or operations, which can involve changes to company culture, the company’s use of technologies, its organizational structure, or even its major initiatives and goals. Organizational change is typically implemented because it’s believed the shift will support processes to allow a company to operate more efficiently, its workers to increase productivity, its leaders to become more innovative, and so it will increase a business’s profitability.

There are two main types of organizational change:

Adaptive Changes

Organizations undertake adaptive changes over time in the form of small, incremental changes. They can be considered the refinement of processes and strategies. An example of an adaptive change includes encouraging an environment of mutual respect, where workers feel safe to discuss their concerns and know they will be listened to. Adaptive changes should be addressed by management, but don’t typically significantly alter every aspect of every team member’s assigned tasks.

Transformational Changes

Changes that are transformational in nature are larger in scope and scale, and usually involve a radical change in the business’ direction. It can also involve significant risks. A few examples of transformational changes include mergers and acquisitions, crisis management, outsourcing, and restructuring. Transformational changes are known to cause anxiety and generally affect every level of an organization. They require more hands-on attention to ensure both management and employees at all levels weather the changes well.

Leading Change

Great leaders must possess the ability to communicate clearly and effectively through change, although the communication should ideally start prior to any changes being executed so that workers have the opportunity to understand what will be happening. This means leaders should be actively listening to their team and colleagues and be available to answer questions, as well as keeping their workers apprised of the steps being taken to implement whatever changes are coming.

Communicating what changes will be occurring is vital to ensuring your team trusts and respects you. Defining the scope of the changes, outlining what changes will occur and when, as well as how those changes will affect everyone – not just key players – permits everyone to understand their role in effecting and facilitating successful changes. Team members need to feel ownership for the change in order for it to be successful. This empowers workers so that they feel valued by the company. Knowing how any changes will impact their particular job responsibilities is especially important.

Instituting clear and focused communication is the way to accomplish this and it is one of the most powerful tools in your leadership toolbox. A strong leadership skill set will adequately equip leaders to effectively address the challenges associated with change in the workplace.

Help Managing Change

If you’re looking for opportunities to improve your organizational change management abilities and improve the way you help your team manage fear of change in the workplace, contact me today.

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