Change without Pain

New owner aboard? Merged with another organization? Take an approach that encourages a smooth transition.

By Lynn Lochbihler - As published in Fitness Business Canada Magazine

When a company goes through any major change, its first step is to restructure. How well this restructuring is executed determines its success or failure.

Successfully changing a company’s structure and culture requires buy-in from all the players. The leadership team must possess influencing skills extraordinaire to sell its vision. Leaders must motivate people to believe in the vision of the corporate transformation and the need for revitalization. Because people commonly resist change, the team must be able to convince employees to jump on the train before it leaves the station – and to enjoy the ride. It must be able to answer the inevitable “What’s in it for me” question from employees. As the saying goes, it’s easier to drive a car under its own power than push it.

The most misunderstood part of any change process is the effect that it will have on the day-to-day lives of the people involved. People have different personalities, come from different educational and ethnic backgrounds and are privy to different information. All of these shape how they will react to the situation.

The employees remaining after a corporate re-structuring do not necessarily work harder because they are thankful to still have a job. Instead they often feel resentful, bitter and overwhelmed due to an increased workload and the fear that they might be the next to be cut or have their jobs substantially altered. They feel concern for their workmates who have lost their jobs and, at the same time, guilty that they are spared (this time!). They don’t know what to say to workmates who have been given notice, so they ignore them with causes more internal turmoil.

In the best cases, employers provide training and counselling to help people deal with the variety of emotions they are experiencing. When this doesn’t occur, the newly-restructured workforce is often de-motivated and operating in negative attitude mode. Like a snowball rolling downhill, this attitude can pickup speed and girth and be hard to stop. People can feel trapped or lost which can cause them to behave uncharacteristically. The stress and uncertainty spills over onto family members and into communities.

Here are several simple strategies to encourage acceptance of change and to spark renewed energy and optimism in a changing workplace:

  1. Listen to each other. Being approachable reduces the changes that people feel alone and that no one cares.
  2. Share feelings, thoughts and solutions with people going through the same issues
  3. Create a personal support system. This could include family members, friends, counsellors, health care providers and financial advisors.
  4. Be considerate, patient and tolerant of other people's challenges. Imagine all situations through other people's eyes and give credence to other people's perspectives.
  5. Understand people may need to vent.  Dont' take comments personally; listen to the message and pay less to the tone and body language.
  6. Accept that change is inevitable. This change is part of the cycle of life, albeit perhaps a different one. There will always be more change in the future.
  7. Celebrate successors. Be good to yourself and others. Don't underestimate the value of a simple smile and a handshake.
  8. Be optimistic. There is good in every situation - look for it!
  9. Rally the cheerleaders in your organization to generate positive can-do momentum.
  10. Communicate openly, truthfully and regularly.

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