Effective Change Management Starts with Getting Over the Fear of Change

Effective Change Management starts with the process of taking changes in your organization and making the process of employee transition as easy as possible. Change management is trying to take that innate fear in humans and making these changes seem something that should be embraced.

Gartner Analysts believe we are well equipped to deal with change: “We are confronted with changes all the time, and regularly adapt to embrace them. Research points to neuroplasticity well into our adult years. As human beings we are built for change and will change!”

One of the reasons people are resistant to change is the fear of the unknown. We all fear not knowing what the future holds, whether this be in five years or even tomorrow, because this makes us feel as though we are out of control. We fear the things that we can’t control. Even simple things like being moved to a new desk away from the window can disrupt our overall environment and how we perceive our work. This fear can kill productivity, and growth. Fear of the unknown is difficult to alleviate, but turning these unknowns in positive new things can help.

Effective change management starts with facing the unknown and not backing down when confronted with the difficult decisions that are part of the change process.

Communications giant Sprint Nextel developed a comprehensive change management program for relocating its workforce into new “Sprint Mobile Zones,” which encompass not only new space and furniture standards, but also new technology and altered workplace policies. Each Sprint Mobile Zone uses policies and design criteria outlined in the company’s guidelines, but implementation of these elements varies based on individual project constraints such as time, funding or cultural issues. Sprint’s goal is to save cost, improve process and increase mobility.

The fear of failure, works hand in hand with the fear of the unknown. When we know our comfortable little daily routines, we are not only assured in what is to come but also in that we can accomplish with what is set before us. People start to worry about failing in their new workspace; they worry about disappointing their bosses and the organization as a whole. They may worry about losing their job or the respect of their co-workers. We all expect to get things done right the first time, but it needs to be understood by both you and your employees that it is okay to fail the first time or the next few times, so long as they can embrace the changes you are setting in place positively.

The last major fear is perceptive fear. Perceptive fear is created by how the individual perceives the change that is happening to them. For instance, a new house closer to work is a good perceived change, but construction on your main route to work is perceived as annoying and time consuming. How someone perceives the change they are experiencing will determine how restive they are to it. This fear is a delicate one, and can’t just be paved over to make way for excitement and joy. Effective change management starts with understanding the individual and, most importantly, helping them to perceive this change as being for the better. You need to make sure change is always perceived as a positive, whether by addressing change on a companywide or individual basis.

Gartner analysts pose a way to get employees interested in change: “Don’t mandate change, invite employees to participate. This gives them a choice. Leverage the early adopters to “encourage” the laggards to get on board. Peer pressure is very persuasive as is competition – particularly in the ranks of business leaders. Use these liberally.”

Fear is a natural process of life for everyone, and this extends into the organizational life cycle too. Effective change management starts with the process of making things better as new and fresh ideas and possibilities become available. But just like with any other change, change in the work space or in daily working routine can be a frightening thing for people. By understanding why people are afraid of change, we can better understand the ways to help people to ease into these new changes in a holistic and healthy way, instead of a shocking way, like being thrown into a cold swimming pool. Before understanding change management processes, understanding what makes change management necessary is important.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and on Google+. Sharing is always appreciated.

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.
Christopher Smith on sabtwitterChristopher Smith on sablinkedinChristopher Smith on sabgoogleChristopher Smith on sabfacebook