Change poses a challenge to those that are experiencing it. This is true for change of all forms and it includes professional, personal and organizational change. For this paper, however, we would discuss personal and professional change and how to manage it effectively.
This could include literally anything and everything under the sun. From the death of a close family member that changes your life in a big way to a painful divorce are all examples of personal change. However, it is not necessary that the change is always negative. There are positive personal challenges as well. The birth of a child or a job promotion is an apt example of positive personal changes. The personal change affects life and the behavior of a person consequently.
The professional change also includes a variety of aspects. The changes in the work environment as a whole and also the changes relating to one’s personal career paths are part of it. A job switch (moving from one job to another) or a careers’ switch (change of a career path).
It could range from something as simplistic as a change in office décor to a change in the top management of the company which results in an unpleasant personal boss.
How Change Affects Us?
The change affects us in a variety of ways. Mostly, people are fearful of change.
This is because change is unpredictable and people can’t fashion their own responses to it. For example, many older employees (in terms of age) resist technological change because it makes them look incompetent as they can not handle the new technology and makes them fearful of losing their jobs.
A change that affects people in a negative manner may bring out the worst reactions amongst people and also influence their performance in a bad manner.
In the example mentioned above, for example, people feared change and that would have affected their productivity and performance levels. Also, they would have been negative towards the new recruits who are well-versed in technology. In another scenario, they would refuse to learn and apply themselves to the new skills.
Similarly, a positive change may work wonders for the performance and productivity levels of a person but also elevate their moods.
Even a simple change like a new paint may have an effect on the people.
An Illustration: How Much Change Affects Us?
The famous Hawthorne Studies are an apt example of how change affects us. The Hawthorne studies were conducted by three management experts namely Elton Mayo, F.J. Roethlisberger ad William J. Dickson.
Started in 1924, these studies were initiated by the National Academy of Sciences. For a period spanning three years, (1924-1927), the researchers studied the effect of lighting on the output of women workers in a factory. They used to assemble telephone relay equipment.
In one workroom, they changed the lighting and in another, they kept it constant. And then, they compared the results of those two workrooms. This study tells us clearly that people like attention and even a change in a slight factor causes them to act differently. (Courtland and Thill, p52-53)
Resistance to Change
- Self-Interest: People would base their responses to change in light of how much it threatens them as individuals. Their job prospects might be challenged as in the example of aged employees. Their status, turf, relationships, and pay scales are all factors that could be influenced. If any of these factors is getting influenced in a negative manner, people are bound to react negatively.
- Lack of understanding and Trust: People resist and battle change when they can’t get the meaning and intention of the change. Until and unless they get the reason why that change is being implemented, they won’t be ready to embrace it. Another facet here would be that they perhaps somehow doubt the motivations and don’t trust the managers who are bringing about that change.
- Uncertainty: Change is always shrouded in uncertainty and unpredictability and that is the precise reason why so many people are apprehensive of it. The fear of the unknown might propel people to resist a proposed change. It might be even truer for those employees that are susceptible and have little or no information in relation to the proposed change.
- Varying perceptions: No two people believe in the same things or concepts. Each person may have his or her own values. Thus, they might have responses to change as well. The perceptions of those bringing about the change would be different from those that are opposing it. Some might have issues with the deadline of the implementation. Others might see it as an unfruitful plan whose disadvantages would be more than the advantages. People might be pursuing different personal and professional goals and thus, it is only natural that they have opposition to a change while others might find the very same change in their interest.
How to Deal With Change?
As change is inevitable, we have to look at ways at how to deal with it. Change can’t be avoided so we have to look at ways to counter it in ways that the change becomes effective. For a while, we are assuming that the change is negative or one that is not welcome.
The first step towards managing change is to become acquainted with it. When we get to know something better, it does not intimidate us. Rather we could be challenged by it and then discover ways to tackle it.
Firstly, those who are bringing about the change should think about all the parties and the stakeholders involved and realize their points of view which might all be valid at the same time. For this purpose, they should be talking to all the parties that are involved.
Now keeping that issues in mind, people initiating change should be responding to the change. They could alter their proposed plan a bit or could talk the other parties into accepting their plans.
An effective strategy would be to hear all the grievances and keep something to placate all the parties.
Also, on the other hand, people that are resisting change should also realize that change is inevitable and it is ultimately for the larger good of everybody. They should keep their demands reasonable and co-operate with the catalysts of change.
Conducting awareness workshops and seminars could also go a long way towards alleviating the concerns of the aggrieved parties. People should be made to realize the advantages that arise out of the change. When people know the benefits of a particular situation, they are bound to lower their resistance.
Successful Management of Change: Some Examples
There are examples out there in the world that tell us that it is not difficult to implement change with success.
Many people have been able to convert negative changes in their life to wonderful achievements and have used them as stepping-stones to success. To take an example that we all are familiar with, Abraham Lincoln had turned his continuous failures to get elected to the legislature into a success by never giving up.
Similarly, many managers have executed professional change in their workplaces with the help of a few strategies. They are:
- Education and communication: Here you educate the employees and spread awareness amongst them about the necessity of change, the intent or purpose of the change, and the benefits that shall arise from the change. Useful in instances of uncertainty and/or mistrust.
- Participation: Here the managers involve employees in the change process to give them a feeling of belonging. This is particularly useful when the change is not fully planned and help is needed to formalize it. Also, when people participate in the process, they will be helpful in executing that change. However, it is a very time-consuming procedure as one needs to gather the opinions of all the people especially if the organization is large.
- Facilitation and support: It is implemented by facilitating change by the provision of support to all those that would be influenced by it. It is helpful when people oppose change due to adjustment issues.
- Negotiation and agreement: Negotiating with those that are resisting change and then arriving at a possible agreement is one of the best approaches. It is used when one of the stakeholders involved is bound to be affected negatively by the change. In this approach, incentives and packages could be offered to the party that is being affected.
By successfully adopting one of these strategies, management could easily solve management issues.
Courtland and Thill. Hawthorne Studies and Effect, Management, International. Edition. 2000, [Pg 52-53],
F. John Reh, Managing Change: Managing People’s Fear.. 2008. Web.
Kevin Dwyer. Managing Change: Motivating People. 2008. Web.