“The only constant in life is change.”- Heraclitus
This truth has been out there for thousands of years, yet there is also truth that change– even welcome change– brings stress and often fear. In a working world where change seems to come at us faster and faster, being grounded in practical ways to be better prepared for change, address the fears while going through change, and being able to clearly understand the benefits of growing pains are key.
Think of your gut reaction to an unexpected change. How have you seen others react? Some of us are better adapted to accepting change. A few of us welcome change, potentially seeing it as a growth opportunity. No matter our personal reaction, companies need leaders at all levels to be able to help teams adapt quickly and manage the stress that comes with expected and unexpected change.
On a personal level, it’s important to understand how we cope with change. Are the things we do to address those stressors helpful or masking the problem? We saw a huge increase in alcohol use over the past few years because of COVID stressors. Others put on COVID pounds, de-stressing through too many comfort foods. There were also people that used this period of change to take a different approach. Many people became gardeners or returned to gardening. Some used the change to reevaluate their careers and life values. Framing change as a way to learn and grow can help us find better ways to cope with the stressors of change.
When we look at this through an organizational lens, there are clear benefits to helping employees and teams address the pain points around change. Acknowledging change and having resources to help people move forward can mean less burnout, less turnover, and better creative problem solving.
What You Can Do
- If a known change is coming, leadership should take the time to think through communications well in advance and what that needs to look like for different demographics/geographies in an organization. Communications should include both the things that may be difficult during the change and the benefits that will happen after the change occurs.
- Recognize that some of your employees and managers will be better at dealing with change than others. Have a plan in place to address those that may react negatively or be more fearful. This can help get you ahead of bad information being shared or some employees’ fears influencing others.
- Talk about the very real challenges that accompany change. Have an ongoing campaign before, during, and after change that highlights your benefits and resources that can support employees, including your health/wellness offerings, EAP resources, using flex time to manage through change, etc.
- Do regular, ongoing touch-bases with managers at all levels during change to make sure they have the support they need, both personally and professionally, and are clear about what resources are available to their team members. They should be visibly modeling for those on their team, so need to “put their own masks on” first.
- The basics of health and wellbeing, enough good sleep, hydration, physical activity, eating to thrive, and social connection are even more important through change. Make sure that this is a focus of some of the communications. To get an even better response, share how different leaders in the organization are using the company’s resources to get through change and some key things they do to manage stress. Make sure these are things that people at all levels can do.
- Once through the change, take the time to celebrate all those that helped make the change a success. Recognize that there were challenges, but together the team made it through and is now in a better place. If most of your employees believe the change was successfully addressed and understand the positives of going through change, that will make the next time easier.
In any business, change is inevitable. Having a better plan in place to navigate change successfully can mean the difference between just surviving and using change to gain a competitive edge. How will you use change to grow?
One final thought:
“When you are finished changing, you are finished." - Benjamin Franklin