Employee wellbeing during change
Employee wellbeing during change – What is going on for you during these uncertain times?
Change isn’t really change anymore, it just is. One of changes became more frequent changes, which became frequent and more sizeable thus becoming transformation(s) which has now become a constant evolution in practically every workplace. Change is the new business as usual so simply put we either get on board with this new reality of we risk becoming irrelevant rather quickly.
“Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.”
– Louise Penny, Still Life
What I wish to focus on with this thought piece specifically is employee wellbeing given this new reality and how we can best understand what is going on within our hearts & minds whilst also I introducing you to some practical steps for addressing the challenges we are bound to face as employees. The leadership part I will come back to in future posts, for now I want to focus on how change impacts the masses and how we can avoid falling into a meltdown with every new change announcement. We can’t wave a magic wand and make our leaders better at managing/deploying change, trust me I have tried, but we can certainly equip ourselves with the knowledge and know how to protect ourselves from the worst of it.
Firstly, it is important to remember that people accept and adapt to change in their own time. That said, the majority of people will follow a similar pattern of emotions as they experience any significant change either at work or in their personal life.
The Kubler-Ross curve was actually first designed to capture the emotions of grief experienced from the death of a loved one, how eery that we should now use it to capture human reactions to organisational change but there you go!
Employee wellbeing during change – The Stages Explained:
An early strategy that people use to cope with change is to deny that it is happening, or to deny that it will continue or last. Common responses during this stage are:
“I’ve heard these things before. Remember last year they announced the new customer initiative? Nothing ever happened, and this will pass.”
“It’s just another hair-brained idea from the top.”
“I bet this will be like everything else. The head honcho will be real gung-ho but in about six months everything will be back to normal. You’ll see.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
People in the denial stage are trying to avoid dealing with the fear and uncertainty of prospective change. They are hoping they won’t have to adapt.
The denial stage is difficult because it is hard to involve people in planning for the future, when they will not acknowledge that the future is going to be any different than the present.
People tend to move out of the denial stage when they see solid, tangible indicators that things ARE different. Even with these indicators some people can remain in denial for some time which brings down employee wellbeing hugely. To improve employee wellbeing efforts must be made to reduce the denial phase as much as possible! Lingering here is not good for anyone, especially you!
Anger & Resistance
When people can no longer deny that something is or has happened, they tend to move into a state of anger, accompanied by covert and/or over resistance. This stage is the most critical with respect to the success of the change implementation. Leadership is needed to help work through the anger, and to move people to the next stage. If leadership is poor, the anger at this stage may last indefinitely, perhaps much longer than even the memory of the change itself.
People in this stage tend to say things like:
“Who do they think they are? Jerking us around”
“Why are they picking on us?”
“What’s so damned bad about the way things are?
“How could [you] the boss allow this to happen?
Actually people say far stronger things, but we need to be polite! As you can imagine this is where employee wellbeing gets tested to the max…..the resilience of an employee is put to the sword and it is here that tools & techniques to manage stress will be absolutely key. Lot’s of proactivity around stress management here can help bring employee wellbeing under control. See previous posts for advice here.
Exploration & Acceptance
This is the stage where people begin to get over the hump. They have stopped denying, and while they may be somewhat angry, the anger has moved out of the spotlight. They have a better understanding of the meaning of the change and are more willing to explore further, and to accept the change. They act more open-mindedly, and are now more interested in planning around the change and being participants in the process.
People in this stage say things like:
“Well, I guess we have to make the best of it.”
“Maybe we can get through this.”
“We need to get on with business.”
This is the payoff stage, where people commit to the change, and are willing to work towards making it succeed. They know it is a reality, and at this point people have adapted sufficiently to make it work. While some changes will never get endorsement from employees (downsizing, for example) employees at this stage will commit to making the organization effective within the constraints that have resulted from the change.
Employee wellbeing during change – call to action!
Okay so now I know a bit more about what I am experiencing emotionally during change but how do I choose to be proactive when it’s so easy to freak out or hide under the covers?
Here are some of the basics to get you started…..
- Acknowledge that change is part of life.Nothing would exist without change. It’s inevitable. We wouldn’t even be born if our parents hadn’t changed (or grown up).
- Accept your emotions.Tell the truth on yourself to allow all your feelings. Cry the crocodile tears and release the energy as it comes up. Be patient, as it takes time to sort through all your emotions and adjust to change. Too often we skip over this step, shove our emotions down and that ends up slowing us down.
- Reframe the situation to see the positive.After I processed my sadness about having lost my close friend and ally at work, I started to dream about the possibilities ahead. Maybe their replacement would bring new value into my life, open up new learning possibilities. I hadn’t lost a friend, maybe I could actually gain one!
- Action is required because decisions, not conditions, determine your path. By deciding to move forward and trust the process, we put our focus on what is available. I took steps to reach out to my ally’s replacement, we went for lunch and discussed our networks and common interests. By taking positive action, I was able to let go of my fears and move forward believing that everything will work out for the best.
In my next post I will go into more detail on steps you can take to address your journey through the change curve and smoothen it out as much as possible! Employee wellbeing and change are two of the hottest topics for this decade maybe even this generation!