The Thing About Change

Organizational change is scary, exciting and emotionally draining all at the same time. It can wreak havoc on your physical health or send you on an emotional roller coaster into the nearest doctor’s office for a prescription drug or, left to your own devices, maybe something a little stronger. O.k., perhaps I’m being a little dramatic, but my point is there are consequences when we don’t understand the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual toll change can have on an employee’s health and their ability to get the job done.

After years of working in various industries, I am still perplexed at how organizations put so much effort into developing strategies for implementing change that does not include a strategy for the human side of change. I am always quick to ask, “What about the people?” and the usual response is, “Change is inevitable, they’re stressed, resisting the change, and not responding well.”   Even though this does not usually include all staff members, it still includes enough to derail or slow down implementing the desired change.

I make every effort to encourage leaders to focus on the people side of the change effort. I always inquire about the percentage of time spent on understanding and supporting staff through the emotional side of change and the strategies they have in place for the people who must implement the change. The response to this question on many occasions, is simple a blank stare.  The assumption is that people will and need to get through the change – suck it up and get going! There may be some truth to that statement.  We do need to take responsibility for how we respond to change; however, not everyone has the coping mechanisms to do so, especially if change is happening at a fast and constant pace.  Leaders must also consider that people are simultaneously experiencing the pressures of change in their personal lives as well (e.g. divorce, health issues, sick child, caring for aging parents etc.).  Consideration of the latter and the realities of adjusting to change within the workplace requires empathy, caring, and the provision of resources to keep the change train moving in a more powerful and collective way.

Change is the reality of the 21st century but it is tough, messy at times and requires a lot of energy! To ensure continued success along the way, organizations must prepare for both sides of the change; The rational side and the emotional side. Businesses usually do better with the rational side of change than with the people side of change. A process must be in place to help employees transition when introducing large change initiatives. It is good business sense because when you take good care of staff they take good care of the business. Healthy staff produce healthy and productive results for customers and ultimately the bottom line!

Organizational change is necessary for growth, to support changing customer needs and to remain competitive. The speed of this change and the fear of the unknown can evoke anxiety and challenge our sense of worth. Employees often ask themselves can I do the new job or task? Will I be given the necessary support and resources?  Will it affect my employment?

Communication is crucial. Understanding how people are adjusting to change is just as important as communicating trials and successes. Communication allows leaders to determine the emotional and technical support employees require.

In summary, to ease the fear of organizational change and increase the likelihood of change momentum, put people first! Include employees in the process from the start. Create a culture that encourages self-care.  Tune in to how people are feeling and responding to change.  Ensure that the necessary tools, technology, training and coaching is in place to curtail the emotional frenzy that can derail your plans for a successful change outcome.



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Rosita Hall is a professional, Speaker, Trainer and Canadian Best Selling Author. To book Rosita for a speaking engagement or to order a copy of her book visit

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