Managing The Emotions of Change
In my previous blog on change management, we examined the natural and inevitable cycle of change that people go through during times of change. We explored how resistance to change is often a more troubling problem than even the most complicated tangle of technology, and how project managers and systems integrators need to account for these human factors. Indeed, no matter how innovative new systems and technology are, or how thoughtfully we have put together our strategies, if people resist change and find ways to sabotage our efforts, it is unlikely that even the best technical implementation will have meaningful success.
So the question becomes: How can you better manage the impacts of change on your people, your improvement projects, and your results? One way is by better understanding the emotions of change and how the negative effects can take you off course. Here are three to consider.
Some people accept change quickly, but others do not, so they seek to enter into some agreement that will postpone the inevitable. For example, if a four-year-old does not get his way, he will stomp his foot and go sulk in his room. He will not accept “No” when he wants ice cream for breakfast. Soon, he’ll have second thoughts and put on extra-good behavior. “If I pick up all my toys, then can I have ice cream?” he’ll eventually ask. Grown-up people will bargain too. They will bargain for ways to get back to their Comfort Zone. (Authors note: Click here for more on the Comfort Zone, and the other elements of The Cycle of Change.)
People can become depressed when their routines and habits must change. One example is called reactive depression, when people react to, and become depressed by, the things that are taking place. They are worried about how change will affect the basics like money, job, and family. And even the “upside” has drawbacks. For instance, a job promotion may actually result in a loss of precious family time at home, so while the new job may look good on paper, this change represents a potentially disruptive force on a personal level. Another example is preparatory depression which does not occur as a result of what is presently happening, but rather, as the emotional process of preparing for what is ahead. If you allow people to grieve for the old ways they will find acceptance of the new much easier.
People naturally get anxious when they recognize that things are not going to be the way they were, but they don’t yet know the shape of the future. When people feel anxious about their jobs, uncertain about where to place their trust and unclear about the future, honest communication is critical. You must have the courage to describe reality as closely as possible to what you know reality to be. People need to know how change will impact their lives. If people are afraid of the dark, give them a flashlight and do your best to assure them there are no monsters hiding under the bed.
Resistance to change is inevitable, so rather than fight it; expect it, acknowledge it and respect it. The challenges are very real and techniques of managing change are as much an art as they are a science. It is important to acknowledge some of the critical emotional factors that must be addressed in order to successfully implement a change initiative.
About Kevin Craine
Kevin Craine is a professional writer, an internationally respected technology analyst, and an award-winning podcast producer. He was named the #1 Enterprise Content Management Influencer to follow on Twitter and has listeners and readers worldwide. Kevin creates strategic content for the web, marketing, social media, and more. He is the written voice for some of North America's leading brands and his interviews feature today's best thought leaders. His client list includes many well-known global leaders like IBM, Microsoft and Intel, along with a long list of individuals and start-ups from a wide variety of industries. Kevin's podcasts have been heard around the world, including the award-winning weekly business show "Everyday MBA". He is also the host and producer of "Bizcast" on C-Suite Radio and the producer behind podcasts for Epson, Canon, IBM and AIIM International, among others. Prior to starting Craine Communications Group, Kevin was Director of Document Services for Regence BlueCross BlueShield where he managed high volume document processing operations in Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City. He also spent time at IKON as an Enterprise Content Management consultant working with national and major accounts. He was the founding editor of Document Strategy magazine. Kevin has also been, at one point or another, an adjunct university professor, a black belt martial artist, and a professional guitarist. Kevin holds an MBA in the Management of Science and Technology as well as a BA in Communications and Marketing.