There is an old mantra that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. That mantra may need to be updated, as one of the things I hear over and over from leaders is how much “change” there is. Today, change is as inevitable as death and taxes. Sometimes the change is welcome, but more often than not, it is met with resistance, at least initially. Change is sometimes imposed by the manager, sometimes at a higher level such as the corporate office. Sometimes there are external agencies that change that necessitate your organization respond to those changes.
Leaders struggle with how to get their employees to “embrace” the change. But they are often met with responses such as, “I wish it were the way it used to be” or “We used to be able to…” or “When we had more staff we could….”
Leaders ask how they can get their employees “on board”.
I recently attended a training that my company offers to the organizations we work with entitled Stress or Success. It covered many aspects of stress, but what caught my attention the most – and what I thought you might benefit from – was the discussion on how people respond to change.
The impact of change is personal; no two people handle it the same way. Here is the part that got my attention and made me think about all the leaders who have asked about how to get employees to embrace change: “People don’t resist change, they resist loss.” The trainer went on to say that when there is a new beginning, we often forget to acknowledge there is an ending. Before coming to terms with change, we need to honor and resolve the endings.
What does that mean exactly, especially when it comes to workplace change? First, think of it in terms of traditional loss, death. If you have ever grieved the death of a loved one, you know. One must experience the grief process, it’s not possible to ignore it (at least, not for the long term). The same is true for other types of losses.
If your workplace is going through change, and you are trying to get employees “on board”, you may want to try acknowledging the loss first. Talk about what you appreciated about “the old way” and allow employees to share what they appreciated about it as well. Move on to explain why the change is necessary. Give as much information as you can so they understand that change was not an arbitrary decision.
Not everyone will get on board at the same pace. Some may decide this change isn’t for them. But, if you acknowledge the loss they are grieving, you might be able to help them move through the grief process and accept the new reality.
Christine M., APSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2000 as an EAP Counselor and became a Consultation Specialist before being promoted to Manager of the Consultation Team. Christine has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s in Child Development and Family Life from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Additionally, she is a certified wellness coach and leads the Online Leader Coaching Team.