Great Leaders Know Change is Difficult

Great Leaders Understand Change Is DifficultOne of the greatest challenges for leaders is navigating through change in the organization. Most people don’t handle change easily and great leaders not only understand this, but know how to effectively manage through it.

To be able to address the concerns that change creates, a leader first needs to understand why people fear change or minimally find adapting to it difficult. Ignoring people’s concerns only acts to heighten their fear. And fear spreads through an organization like a wild fire. Even those who might not have had concerns when they hear rumors and innuendos from others begin to rethink their feelings and beliefs. Maybe there is something they missed that others know. Perhaps they didn’t place enough emphasis on an aspect of the change that they should have. Whatever the situation, dealing openly, authentically, and honestly with change is critical.

Why Employees Fight Change

  1. They perceive a risk in their personal well being. Change is perceived as a force that brings in additional responsibility, new modalities of work and in worst cases loss of job. The employee acutely fears that if the change is allowed in the company, they would be at high risk.
  2. There are no immediate role models when change comes in. One of the key problems with change is that the employee has no one to emulate. There is no one to act as a role model. The employee is fearful about the mistakes they might make, especially if he is the first one to tread on the ‘changed’ path. The fear of unknown, the apprehension about making mistakes could stop the employee cold in his tracks.
  3. Employee may feel incompetent to take up the new responsibilities. Change means new ways of doing things, new jobs or new skills. People fear that they may not live up to the expectations of their superiors; they feel that they do not have the required competency to deliver their duties in the new style of working. At the same time, they are afraid to admit this to their supervisors/managers lest they lose their jobs.
  4. Employees feel overwhelmed. There will typically be a heavy work load period when change is introduced or about to be introduced. At that time, the work often seems insurmountable. It is difficult to keep employees motivated when they feel the task at hand is impossible. The period before the change would have already bogged the employees down quite a bit; and they are already tense about the overall picture. When change is proposed they would feel that all control would be lost.
  5. Employees fear there is a hidden agenda. Unless you start with a well informed group about why and what type of change is planned, employees would fear there is a hidden agenda about the change.
  6. Not sure what they can trust or not. People have come to not trust others. Even if you are sharing information they often don’t know what to believe is the truth or what you want them to believe.
  7. They hear rumors through the grapevine. During times of change, rumors become rampant. What’s the truth and what is simply a rumor? They have no way to know for sure, so of course uncertainty sets in.
  8. The news, their friends and family are not your friends. The news broadcasts about layoffs at other companies, even when they were told there wouldn’t be. Everyone has a friend or family member who has been through change in a company and has a war story to share.
  9. Illusion of security is disrupted. There really is no such thing as security. It doesn’t matter if you work for a company or have your own business, security is an illusion. However, people believe in the illusion and change interferes with that belief.
  10. Disruption to their personal lives. Maybe they coach a softball team after work or maybe they trade off pickup and drop off of the children, or they are taking courses. Change, whether it’s a merger/acquisition, new leadership, office relocation, or anything else, can cause a disruption to not only their professional life, but their personal life.
  11. Challenges happening in their personal life. They may have challenges they are facing in their personal life such as illness, divorce, child issues, or more. What they want is one part of their life to be stable and constant as they feel incapable of having both in upheaval.

Great leaders recognize that change is upsetting for many people and downright difficult for others. Certainly communicating frequently and openly with everyone helps to calm nerves and helps people feel like they know what is happening, and why. However, understanding what is underneath the fear about change provides insights into how the leader manages themselves during this turbulent time.

Employees look to their leaders to provide guidance on how they should feel and act. If the leader is insensitive to fears, or the cause of their fears, they will come across as unresponsive and others around them will feel disconnected. Great leaders take the time to connect with people at a very human level so that the people don’t block or impede the change that is happening.

Is your company facing change or new challenges? How do you, as the leader, help motivate the troops and build a structure to move forward with as little chaos as possible? Discover how in Drive the Change.

© 2017 Incedo Group, LLC

1 Comment

  • Michael Gorlick Posted June 6, 2017 7:41 am

    Excellent article. Helpful and very enlightening. Well done. Hope all is well.

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