Reactions to Change in The Workplace

Many employees react badly to workplace change

Friday 12th November 2010

Two-thirds of business executives have witnessed how change affects adversely attitudes in the workplace.

A poll by Right Management among human resource professionals and senior executives found 67% believed change at work had a negative impact on workers’ attitudes.

Another third (31%) believed it was the case “sometimes”.

Just 1% thought the effect was “not much”.

Michael Haid, Senior Vice President of Global Solutions for Right Management, said: “There’s agreement that when change in the workplace is not managed well, subpar performance is likely to result.

When proposing change consider and, where prudent, involve the employees whose jobs and work environment will be impacted. HR knows that trying to impose change without adequate communication around the business rationale poses all sorts of downside risks. Workers may not openly disagree or resist but negativity will likely increase unless the employees themselves are given some opportunity to play a part in the process.”

Employees who feel they have no control over change in their workplace often react with negative behaviour.

Watch out for criticising, gossip, power struggles or lack of teamwork,” Haid said.

Failure to deal with the negativity can have far-reaching consequences, including poor morale and lower productivity.

Haid said: “The worst a leader can do is to remain silent, tolerate or be seen as fostering bad attitudes and behaviour.”

He offered six tips to help eliminate negativity:

* Be authentic — Identify and communicate your feelings and beliefs about the change, as well as the direction the organisation is moving towards as a result of change;
* Lead by example. Identify and communicate the positive aspects of change that you genuinely can champion;
* Don’t collude with the negative employee;
* Recognise and reward behaviours that support a positive environment;
* Ask open-ended questions, listen and help develop solutions;
* Counsel the complainer and challenge pessimistic thinking.