Change happens. Some people dive into change with abandon but for most of us, any change can really flip the needle on
our stress meters. Even good change, like getting married or moving to a new place you’re excited about can be stressful. In companies, change takes a lot of forms: You might grow, so there are a bunch of new people and you can’t just yell across the hall anymore, you have to actually have meetings. You might lose a big client and have to downsize. You might move your offices. You might add a business line.
Regardless of what change happens and whether it is considered positive or negative, your employees are going to have an emotional reaction. Change triggers all kinds of feelings of loss of control and anxiety about the future. External change means you have to do some internal rearranging, which can engender fear and anger. If this isn’t overt, it will still seep out through the cracks in the form of passive aggression, snippiness, subterfuge. Employees aren’t trying to do anything wrong, they’re just freaking out.
As a business owner, you have to just tell employees: “The change has happened. We’re not going back. I understand you’re having an emotional response to this but it is happening.” Then offer them some tools to help them work through it. Ultimately, it’s each employee’s responsibility to be able to handle change. Innovation only seems to be heating up, after all, and we’re all having to cope with more change, more rapidly. But there are things you can do to make it smoother.
You can’t hold all their hands, but you can offer an outside agency, an Employee Assistance Program through your benefits program. Frequently this is just a toll-free number employees can call anonymously—you won’t even know who used it—to rant about what’s happening and get a little guidance, perspective and coping tools. For major changes, shifts on a large scale, consider a change management expert to help employees learn to cope with the transition. These HR professionals are change management experts who have been there, done that and understand the kinds of concerns and responses that employees wrestle with. They are adept at developing and implementing system wide change management programs that enlist, empower and ultimately, move to organization forward.
They can also help you figure out the most positive, proactive way to introduce the change. How you can communicate information, what employees need to know, and how you can give them opportunities to air their issues without it becoming a whine-fest.
Change is going to keep happening and learning how to manage it is pretty much becoming an essential skill for anyone who operates a business. Learning how to make it more palatable for employees is part of that skill set. If you want some expert advice about how to approach impending change, we can help.