Don’t Underestimate The Stress Of Change

Don't Underestimate The Stress Of Change

Regularly in IT, we field new technologies and systems.

Often, we don’t pay enough attention to the details of change management and what that means to our users.

A great article in Government Executive Magazine by Dr. Victoria Grady really hits this right on.

Grady points out something that is often overlooked: people have an instinctual predisposition to attach to/lean on objects and intangibles–including things like office spaces, systems, business processes, organizational structures, leaderships styles, and so on.

If you take that away–excuse the simile, but it is like taking candy away from a baby–you are going to get a lot of (often understandable) whining, crying, and resistance.

The key is understand that people in a sense really all have a kid inside them, and they need to be listened to, understood, empathized with, and cared for.

Changing out IT systems, restructuring the office, or doing a reorganization (as much as they may be needed) can cause people huge amounts of stress and the organization productivity losses, if not done right.

Remember, you are changing up people’s status quo, what they know, their security blanket, and you need to be mindful of and implement a robust communication and change management strategy.

What I have found is that one thing that raises the stress tempo is when people don’t have enough information on the change that is coming, how that impacts them, and how “everything will be okay.”

The more unknowns, the more stress.

While you cannot share information you don’t yet have or perhaps that is not yet baked, you can be honest and tell people what you do know, what you are still investigating, perhaps what some of the options are, timeframes, and of course, solicit their input.

To the extent that people are kept in the loop and can influence the process–the more control they have–the better they can cope and adjust.

Not that adults are children, but the analogy still holds, when you take away a bottle from a infant, you better have a pacifier to keep them happy–in this case, the pacifier is the replacement thing that people need to attach to/lean on to feel secure in their jobs.

If you are changing out systems, make sure the new system is well vetted, tested, and trained with the end-users, so they know and feel comfortable with the change–and they have the confidence in you and your team, the new system, and in themselves to handle it.

Same goes for other changes in the organization–you can mitigate stress through communication, collaboration, testing, training, and other confidence building measures.

Adults and babies are a lot happier and better able to deal with change, when they are taken care of properly.

We are all somewhat change adverse and that is a basic survival instinct, so we sometimes need to take baby steps, walk before we run, and work together to change as a group and ensure that the “new” is indeed better than the “old.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)