As a species, we are hardwired to resist change. The brain identifies change as a potential threat and this can explain why a new idea in business – even a beneficial one – may be met with defensive behaviour from the rest of the team. While this is not an ideal situation, by understanding it, we can work with it and help our team during the transition period.
The Kubler-Ross Change Curve is regularly used to illustrate the process that humans go through when faced with change. The initial stage includes denial – even shock in some cases – and leads to a state of frustration that things are different. As leaders, we have to be empathetic here, as, unless carefully managed, it can lead to depression. If we can be successful in sensitively explaining the change – and the benefits of it – the model suggests that one should progress onto a stage of engagement, positivity and, finally, full integration of the new way.
Understandably, change that is seen as out of our control can appear the most threatening, so it is wise to include your team throughout the decision-making process. Even if decisions cannot be made outside of senior management, keeping the team up to date via regular communication is essential. Once a decision has been made, it helps to provide a rationale for the change as this can help in the understanding of it.
Large changes – such as a change of management – can understandably feel quite unsettling to our team, but small changes can be distressing, too. It is easy to assume that something insignificant to us – such as a change of uniform – is nothing to be stressed over, but, to the person wearing it, it becomes part of their working identity. We must not forget to include our team as much as possible when making any changes and to actively listen to their concerns.
Change is inevitable, but by understanding the process, we can help our team transition more quickly – and more agreeably.