Change Management Christopher SmithFebruary 4, 2021

How to Handle Employee Attitude Towards Organizational Change

How to Handle Employee Attitude Towards Organizational Change

During any organizational change initiative, handling employee attitude towards organizational change can make a significant difference in project outcomes.

If employee attitudes are overridingly negative, for instance, resistance to change may impede progress and even undermine the project completely.

On the other hand, positive attitudes can drive up employee engagement, productivity, performance, and, ultimately, have a positive impact on the project’s outcomes.

Below, we’ll explore these factors in detail – why employee attitude matters, the factors that influence attitudes in the workplace, and how to handle attitude during change projects.

Employee Attitude Towards Organizational Change

Here are three key areas to focus on when addressing employees’ attitudes towards organizational change:

Why Employee Attitude Matters

First and foremost, it is important to understand why employee attitude matters. Employees’ attitudes and mindsets, after all, ripple out and impact other areas of the organization.

Attitudes, however, are not static and they can be significantly impacted by an organizational change project.

Changes in attitudes, in turn, can result in further impacts to:

  • Employee behavior. Attitudes directly impact behavior. A positive attitude, for instance, tends to correlate with greater employee productivity and performance. Negative attitudes, on the other hand, can fuel workplace friction and decrease productivity.
  • Performance and engagement. Employee engagement goes hand-in-hand with an employee’s attitude towards their job, their team, their managers, and their work in general. When organizational changes negatively affect an employee’s attitude and mindset, their productivity can quickly decrease and they will contribute less to that project.
  • The results of the change program. Ultimately, when attitudes affect behavior and performance, the change project itself is affected. Negative reactions to projects can result in distrust, resentment, resistance, and, ultimately, poorer project outcomes.

It is important to keep this potential effects in mind when designing a change project, change management communication strategies, and the project roadmap. This information can also be useful when making a business case for efforts designed to address employee attitudes.

What Influences Employee Attitude

Organizational changes can impact the workforce in many ways, and every change to the familiar can produce friction, frustration, and even resistance.

For instance, attitude can be influenced by changes to:

  • Workplace design and structure. In 2020, enterprises around the world were compelled to adopt remote working policies. Such a dramatic shift in the workplace naturally had an impact on how people work, not to mention their attitudes. Those attitude shifts, in turn, affected many workers’ performance and their ability to meet expectations.
  • Team structure. More significant organizational changes, such as mergers and acquisitions, can cause changes to team structures. Those shifts, in turn, often come with new workflows, new expectations, and new behavioral norms. In many cases, this can be jarring to workers and cause undesirable attitude shifts.
  • Business processes and workflows. Many people become familiar with their day-to-day routines, and any change to that routine can cause negative reactions. The discomfort associated with these changes to the familiar can, as mentioned, result in friction, frustration, and so forth. 

Understanding how an organizational change will affect employee attitudes and behavior is the essential first step towards preventing negative shifts in mindsets. 

Early on during a change program, therefore, it is important to perform preliminary groundwork such as change readiness assessments, gap analyses, technology acceptance surveys, and so forth. 

A detailed understanding of the current state of the workforce can help managers accurately predict how employees will react to the change. As a result, it will be easier for them to mitigate problems and solve them when they do occur.

How to Influence Employee Attitudes

Ideally, employees should be motivated and engaged with an organizational change project – they should enthusiastically support it. Positive attitudes, as mentioned above, will have a positive impact on the outcomes of a change program. 

Change managers should therefore find ways to improve attitudes, while minimizing the negatives associated with the change initiative.

Here are a few examples of ways to do just that:

  • Business process management. Business process management is a discipline dedicated to improving and streamlining business processes. During organizational change, it essential to optimize and standardize business processes. The simpler and more efficient processes are, the easier it will be for employees to keep up, stay engaged, and stay productive. One positive result of this: employees will be more satisfied and they will have better attitudes.
  • Clear two-way communication. Effective communication minimizes friction, reduces inefficiency in the workplace, helps maintain a positive workplace climate, and more. During organizational change, effective communication is even more essential. It is necessary to mitigating and preventing many negative reactions and attitudes.
  • Training. Employee training is one of the most essential tools in a change manager’s toolbox. Providing employees with the skills they need to successfully drive change – and showing them why those new skills are personally beneficial – can improve attitudes and performance.

With a well-structured and carefully designed solution, managers can help ensure that attitudes stay positive and supportive during organizational changes.

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