Coping with Change in a Business Environment: How to Help your Employees Deal with Workplace Change

Change is becoming a constant in the business world and employees are frequently expected to cope with more and more change.

Change is a necessary part of business and is becoming ever more frequent. Yet for some employees, change can mean stress. If you look at the statistics, people not adjusting is a common cause of large scale projects not realising their full potential. So how can you, as a business manager, help your staff cope with change better?

Manage the Volume

Some people cope better with change than others, but most people become less flexible with change the more they have to cope with. If possible, try to limit the amount of change in one area to an acceptable limit.

Understand How People React

Most people do not like change; they like things to pretty much remain the same, knowing what they have to do and how to do it. If these factors change there is uncertainity – uncertainity about their ability to do the job, even if there is a job!

Some change can be positive, such as a promotion into a new role, but even that has a period of uncertainty where the person has adjustments to make. It may mean working with different people, a different manager, more or different types of responsibilities, and different expectations.

Some change is negative, such as loosing a job or loss of responsibility. Most changes have both positive and negative aspects.

Tell People What is Happening

People want to know what is going on. If they don’t know they will grab any threads of information they hear and often make up the rest. Provide people with as much information and detail as you can and make yourself available to talk it through. Sometimes people have to hear things in different ways to fully understand and appreciate the implications.

Sometimes management assumes that the reason for the change is very clear and obvious to the entire organisation. This isn’t always the case and for some the reasons may seem very unclear. Take the time to give people background details and reasons for the change. If corporate objectives have changed, help your staff understand this and what it means to them.

What Does the Future look Like?

To cope with change people need to understand what it means to them. While it might be great for the organisation as a whole, it might be difficult for some people to see any benefits in their particular area, and in some cases there may not be any (for example, their department may no longer exist).

The Negative Implications

In many changes, there are some people who do not get the benefits (such as people demoted or made redundant). Be sympathetic to their situation and offer them any assistance you can.

It Takes Time and Patience

It does take time for people to fully assimilate the effects of a change. Don’t expect them to be positive immediately and give them time and opportunities to air their concerns in a safe environment, without any implications. Acknowledge their concerns but help them move forward into the new world of the change.

Be a Role Model

Your staff will look to you as how to behave and react to the change. Your positive attitude will rub off on your staff and they will follow your behaviour in making the necessary adjustments.

Understanding that change isn’t easy for people is the first step to helping them cope. Give them plenty of information and opportunities to discuss the impact. Change needs to be communicated, both as the implications to the company, but also to the individuals. It will take time for people to adjust and fully appreciate what is now expected of them. Be patient but also be a role model for positive reactions to change.