5 Things That Might Scare Employees About Change

In the 1920s, H. P. Lovecraft said: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

This quote, said over 90 years ago, still holds true today when it comes to the workplace. Many employees desperately crave change at work, but when the moment of change comes they are extremely uncomfortable, terrified and nervous. Change is scary because like ghosts in the rain it can dampen their spirits. It is however inevitable and a necessary part of life, in the business world, where businesses need to adapt in order to survive and thrive.

There are many reasons why people resist change, but this article will address five main reasons. Change is bound to happen, so it is essential that management understand why employees are hesitant, in order to help them overcome these concerns.

1. Fear Of The Unknown

According to career coach, Phyllis Mufson, the reason individuals are fearful of change at work is because: “we’re creatures of habit and changes at work move us out of our comfort zone.”

Humans are creatures of habit and change disrupts this. Routines that were once automatic must instantly be forgotten. Individuals will be reluctant to accept change when they do not know what they are getting into. The unknown terrifies them and they are much more satisfied remaining in misery than heading towards the unknown. In order to overcome this, a sense of safety, communication and vision must be portrayed towards the employees, so they can be informed and aware of the future. If the certainty of the change process is not communicated, then the old saying of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know” will prove true and change will not be accepted.

Gartner Analysts address while also offering a solution: “We fear what we don’t understand. It feels “safer” to stay in a place that is uncomfortable, than to move towards an unknown state. Increasing the certainty of what the end-state looks like can decrease this fear. It’s not necessary to get into all the details, but frame the journey from where people are today to where they will be tomorrow. Tell a story about what tomorrow will “feel” like as an employee.”

2. Increased workload

Change results in increased work. When change occurs, everyone involved is tasked with more work. This can occur in many different forms, whether it is through learning new software, taking on more responsibilities, learning new methods or adjusting to new processes; change increases one’s workload. Individuals become accustomed to their old habits and are reluctant to adjust, especially when the reason for the change is unclear and requires more effort and responsibilities. Management should do their best to ensure that there is adequate training and support systems to ensure that the change is successful. Employees who take on increased workloads should perhaps originally receive extra benefits to help smooth the transition.

3. Change Is Framed The Wrong Way

If organizations and leaders cannot properly frame change then the idea will undoubtedly be rejected. According to author, Christine Comaford, leaders should present the opportunity for change as an improvement to what is currently being done.

There should be emphasis on the fact that change is necessary and it is the only way to achieve growth, sustainability and success. Bad aspects are being removed from the organization and good, strong stuff is replacing it. It is crucial that leaders within the organization also use the term growth instead of change as it has a more positive appeal to it and is not as likely to frighten employees.

4. Lack of Communication

Communication is crucial in the success of any organization, especially when changes are involved. If decisions are made suddenly, without any time to get used to the idea or plan for the consequences, then it will likely be rejected. Leaders should ensure that changes are not done in secret and proper communication takes place. If employees are aware and able to provide input then the likelihood of fear and rejection will be diminished. It is much better to “plant the seeds, to sprinkle hints of what might be coming” than to blindside individuals. Vampires might be easy to fool because they are suckers. Employees however are not. By adequately planning, keeping individuals informed and allowing for adequate time to adjust to and prepare for the changes, resistance will be far less likely to take place.

 5. Too Much Change, Too Fast 

Management should avoid introducing too much change, especially all at once. Change should be done gradually, over time to ensure that employees have adequate time to prepare, to adjust and not feel overwhelmed. Management should carefully plan and communicate the change initiative in order to avoid surprising anyone in the organization. This will go a long way in ensuring that change is accepted throughout the organization.  

These are just five of the many issues that might scare employees about change. Organizations should ensure that they effectively communicate with employees in order to understand their concerns and hesitations. Change is actually beneficial and if done right, is the only way organizations can remain relevant in a constantly changing environment. By adequately understanding their employees and communicating with them, managers can ensure change is accepted and that the business continues to prosper.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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