Managing change, or managing continuity?


When it comes to change management, the only thing that is certain in life is that nothing is certain. And yet humans are naturally uncomfortable with uncertainty. Change inspires fear, and this is the emotion that causes us to seek refuge in the comfort of our habits. We reproduce what we know we can do, and what is already proven. Consequently, we gradually lose our ability to adapt – that is to say, our change-management abilities.

So how difficult is it for you stay on top of managing change in your workplace and professional life? Most people are able to deal with change when they are managing it, when change is perceived as ‘normal.’ But what if change causes crisis, unwanted transition or transformation?

Another question is: Are we evolving or are we changing? Sometimes evolution is regarded as positive while change is negative. But whether we use one term or the other, the part of ourselves that is gradually changing over our lifetime cohabitates with the part of ourselves that remains as is. And these two parts are often uneasy neighbours.

It’s important to realize that change is often an illusion. Think about it: you can change your spouse (or job, car, house, etc.) and yet keep the same behaviours. So a “behavior change” is fundamental, and changing behaviour requires you to appropriate other behaviours. Changing the way you act and react requires flexibility; the kind of flexibility that we all have at the beginning of our lives and decreases as we age if we do not practice it.

Managing organizational change: A matter of emotions?

If change management has always been part of the reality of individuals, it is the same for organizations. The challenge is to avoid (and deal with) excessive emotional resistance from employees, but also to encourage them where appropriate to adopt a behaviour change.

Change inevitably causes shockwaves and spawns rumours within work teams. There will be both refractory opponents, and enthusiastic supporters who welcome the change with open arms. There will likely be conflicting emotions at one time or another in those two groups as you navigate the change-management process.

Suffice to say that in business change management is not an easy task. Employees live it; managers must explain it in order for employees to accept it.

Control resistance to change

In the process of change, managers are often faced with team resistance. If they’ve run out of ideas on how to deal with employees, or are simply at the end of their rope, managers tend to let the ship sail by itself, accepting that the storm will wreak havoc in its path regardless of what they do. Some will even punish those employees who demonstrate resistance to change.

Yet it is the responsibility of managers to develop their ability to manage processes and the interpersonal and emotional states among teams in a context of continuous change.

Understand that, basically, an individual affected by change feels catapulted out of his comfort zone. Often he resists when a new avenue is imposed on him or a new skill is pushed. The wave of resistance will be strong, since it is proportional to the uncertainty it creates.

Emotions are part of our lives, even in the professional sphere. Whether it helps or para paralyzes us, change arouses emotion.

Why people resist change

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of not succeeding
  • The sadness linked to renunciation and loss
  • The sadness of losing habits, practices, familiar work environment
  • The belief that if I have to change, that must mean I’m not good!

How different employees react

Resistant employees: Resistance is a healthy step in the management of change, even if it is synonymous with anxiety and instability in the individual. Resistant employees fear losing their bearings (their acquired knowledge, job security, etc.). These people need to be reassured at every step of the change process.

Unbelievers: These are the employees who are quick to say that a new concept or working method will not work, and often are not fully open to the possibility of any positive implications of change. These people need to be well informed, in real time, for them to accept change.

Enthusiasts: Some people are able to embrace change with open arms. They have a more confident and trustful nature, and they perceive the change as beneficial to the organization provided that they fundamentally understand the change. These people are excellent ambassadors to convey positive messages about the process of change within the organization.

Beyond change management

More than managing change in an organization, one must actually manage continuity. Clearly, this implies the need to find stability in instability, and thus build on progress to encourage the individual and the team to positively embrace change.

My change-management training programs equip managers with a matrix they can use to guide individuals through the various stages of change (crisis, transition and transformation). We instruct you (the group, the manager and the organization) on how to experience change differently!

Change is inevitable, but we can certainly learn to contain the emotional tidal wave that accompanies it!

The Impact-Pro team

change management