Communicating Change

by Rus Slater

How do people react to ‘change’?

During times of change, uncertainty is rife and fear of the unknown a common factor. Employees do not always understand why this change is occurring and tend to be wary of moving away from the old.

Philip J Kitchen and Finbarr Daly, School of Management, Queen’s University, Belfast

Suffice it to say that most employees (and let’s remember that managers are generally employees too) don’t view ‘change’ in a very positive light. Tell most people that there is going to be major change within their organisation and the general response will be concern, worry, uncertainty, insecurity, introspection and fear.

The sorts of questions that fly into people’s minds at this moment are

  • Will I still have a job?
  • Will I still have the same colleagues?
  • Will I still have a team?
  • Will I still have a future?
  • Will I still be working with my friends?
  • Will I have to move house?
  • Will I still be able to pick up the kids at 4 o’clock?
  • Will I have the same work to do?
  • Will I still have the same boss?
  • Will I still have the same journey to work?
  • Will I be recompensed for the extra miles?
  • Will my Terms & Conditions change?
  • Will I be measured the same way?

Even if these thoughts don’t go through your employees’ minds immediately, they will certainly be the first questions they will be asked by their partners when they get home!

Change has been likened to the situation on a flying trapeze: people are unhappy about letting go of the situation that they feel in control of today, unless they are very confident about where they are going to be tomorrow; in other words, they don’t want to let go of one swinging bar until they are sure that there is going to be another bar, at the right place and time, securely tethered, for them to catch! (And is there a safety net?)

People are only going to believe that there’s still a secure future for them if they have been communicated with effectively! Note the use of the word ‘with’, not ‘to’.