Chief Operating Officer
When asked about the workplace, we often come up with ideas of things that could be done differently or even some completely new processes and procedures. Yet, when things do change, we often get terrified and uncomfortable. In this blog, we’ll cover the six stages of successful change.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” - H.P. Lovecraft
Why is change terrifying?
Our reptilian brain fears and resists changes; it wants us to be safe and alive. That’s why any environmental changes trigger anxiety and stress. According to scientists, changes at work are among the top life stressors that one can experience.
First, let’s accept that feeling unsettled and worried about change is normal. It’s also normal to be anxious when we think that the future is uncertain and uncontrollable. But fighting changes turns the whole experience from a normal reaction to something unhealthy.
Accepting & Managing Change
Since every industry needs changes, we need to manage the fear of change instead of trying to avoid change. If you trust your company and believe that it can handle transitions well, if you feel supported during shifts in workflow and can influence the process yourself, the stress levels will go down. Why? Because the fear of the unknown turns into something manageable.
Successful Change: Stages
“It is possible to prepare for the future without knowing what it will be. The primary way to prepare for the unknown is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another.” – Margaret Wheatley
The bottom line of those wise words: it's all about preparation, trust, and communication. Let’s look at the stages of change and what management and fellow team members can do to address them.
- Acknowledge the Change. Please don’t make it happen out of the blue. The best first step is to start talking about possible shifts and transitions as soon as you start thinking about them and looking at suitable solutions. Nothing is more intimidating than unpleasant surprises. For starters, get rid of the element of surprise.
- Recognize the Fear. No matter how evident the benefits are, fear will come anyway. Let your team know that you are worried about how everything will go but say that you know this change to be for the best and that you believe in their ability to handle it.
- Offer Support. I’m sure you already are an approachable leader (because you're reading this;D). Make sure everyone remembers it and offer to walk alongside your team through any doubts they might have. Another reasonable idea is to encourage more experienced employees to support newbies. This interaction will also contribute to building stronger relationships inside the group.
- Encourage positive behaviour. Positivity works best when it’s built on strong foundations. Try to value negative feedback and find positive arguments to make it into a starting point for something constructive or at least neutral.
- Embrace the change and plan for everyone to play a part in it. Whether your transition project covers the whole organization or one department, assign tasks for everyone involved. This simple tool will turn a terrifying change into a step-by-step process where everyone’s contribution is appreciated and valued. People will feel more invested in something they're actively contributing to.
- Keep up open communication and build trust. You can admit that you are also afraid of the coming changes but explain that growth only comes this way. That's part of being approachable and what makes a good leader.
With those 6 steps in mind, your change and fear management will get much better. Try it in a small, everyday situation to start. You'll see that you and your team will be much less afraid of "that new thing" soon;).