Whatever the kinds of change that people
encounter, there are certain patterns of
response that occur and re-occur. It is
important that change leaders understand
some of these patterns, since they are
normal outcomes of the change process.
Understanding them allows leaders to avoid
over-reacting to the behaviors of people
who, at times, seem to be reacting in
mysterious, non-adaptive ways.
Ken Blanchard, well known
management consultant, has described seven
dynamics of change designed to help
manager’s better address employee reactions
to change. They are worth summarizing here.
feel awkward, ill-at-ease and self-conscious
Whenever you ask people
to do things differently, you disrupt their
habitual ways of doing things. This tends to
make people feel awkward or uncomfortable as
they struggle to eliminate the old responses
and learn the new. Think back to your own
experience and you will discover this theme.
Whether it be learning to use a computer,
the first time picking up your infant, or
dealing with a new reporting relationship,
recall the self-consciousness that you
probably felt. People want to get it right,
and fear that they will appear inadequate.
initially focus on what they have to give up
Even for positive changes
such as promotions, or those that result in
more autonomy or authority, people will
concentrate on what they will be losing. As
a change leader you need to acknowledge the
loss of the old ways, and not get frustrated
at what may seem to be an irrational or
tentative response to change.
feel alone even if everyone else is going
through the same change
Everyone feels (or wants
to feel) that their situation is unique and
special. Unfortunately, this tends to
increase the sense of isolation for people
undergoing change. It is important for the
change leader to be proactive and gentle in
showing that the employee's situation is
understood. If employees see YOU as
emotionally and practically supportive
during the tough times your position will be
enhanced and the change will be easier.
handle only so much change
On a personal level,
people who undergo too much change within
too short a time will become dysfunctional,
and in some cases may become physically
sick. While some changes are beyond our
control, it is important not to pile change
upon change upon change. While changes such
as downsizing bring opportunity to do other
positive things, the timing of additional
changes is important. If you are
contemplating introducing changes (that are
under your control), it may be a good idea
to bounce your ideas off employees. A good
question to ask is "How would you feel
People are at
different levels of readiness for change
Some people thrive and
change. It's exciting to them. Others don't.
It's threatening to them. Understand that
any change will have supporters and people
who have difficulty adapting. In time many
people who resist initially will come
onside. Consider that those people who are
more ready for the change can influence
others who are less ready. Open discussion
allows this influence process to occur.
be concerned that they don't have enough
People perceive that
change takes time and effort, even if it has
the long term effect of reducing workload.
They are correct that there is a learning
time for most change, and that this may
affect their work. It is important for
change leaders to acknowledge that this may
occur, and to offer practical support if
possible. In the downsizing scenario this
will be even more crucial, since resources
themselves are cut. Consider following the
downsizing with a worksmart process, whereby
job tasks are reviewed to examine whether
they are still necessary.
If you take
the pressure off, people will revert to
their old behavior
If people perceive that
you are not serious about doing things the
new way, they will go back to the old way.
Sometimes this ill be in the open, and
sometimes this will be covert. While
Blanchard uses the word pressure, I prefer
to think of it in terms of leadership role.
The leader must remind people that there is
a new course, and that the new course will
remain. Coaching towards the new ways is
It is important for
leaders to anticipate and respond to
employee concerns and feelings, whether they
are expressed in terms of practical issues,
or emotional responses. When planning for,
and anticipating change, include a detailed
reaction analysis. Try to identify the kinds
of reactions and questions that employees
will have, and prepare your responses.
Remember that the success of any change
rests with the ability of the leaders to
address both the emotional and practical
issues, in that order.
1 The seven dynamics of
change in bold were taken from an article by
Ken Blanchard, and published in The inside
Guide, Oct., 1992. Commentary on each of the
principles was written by the Editor of The
Public Sector Manager.
Post your comments at
Copyright © 2014 AIM Inlines. All rights reserved.
No portion of this web site may be used or
reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Back to Articles
| Top of the Page