Into the Unknown: Preparing Employees to Handle Change
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
People fear the unknown—your employees are no exception. We like to know where we stand. It's why people develop habits and routines. However, contrary to what we might otherwise like, the only real constant in the world is change. And when change occurs in our workplace, whether through a broad overhaul or a slight change in personnel, it can cause fear and unrest in a team. Change can make employees question their standing in your business: What happens if they can't meet new expectations? What if they push back too hard and end up either losing respect or losing their job? If they accept change too quickly, will their co-workers see them as goody-goody? These are all questions your team will ask themselves. However, you can help employees manage their fear of change by setting a solid example.
Set Expectations Early
In moments of change, employees will often feel that they cannot keep up with the new landscape and their new expectations. Ensure that you have established a support system for them during these transitional periods, and, additionally, make sure that your team knows that system is available to them. This can be accomplished by creating an honest and accessible vision of the intended outcome. I don't like changes made only for change's sake, and neither does my team! So I make sure that they understand why the change is happening and ensure we're all on the same page regarding my expectations, both of them and my new system.
Whatever you know about your planned changes to your business, be prepared to share them with your team. Studies have shown that employees respond positively when included and feel that they have a say in the running of a company. Besides, by sharing everything from nitty-gritty details to big picture ideas, you bring your team into things with you and establish yourself as well-informed, prepared, and ready to tackle any obstacles. By seeing you take responsibility and act with confidence, your team will follow your example.
Along with setting clear expectations and explaining specific points of upcoming changes, keep things transparent. Openly discuss the potential pros and cons of your proposed plan, and invite your team to come to you with any pros or cons in the planned changes that you may have missed. Make sure to highlight the pros of how this change will affect the employees positively. Humans are naturally inclined to align themselves with things that will directly benefit them. Make this a priority, and your employees will be more likely to follow your lead.
The most important thing in managing change in the workplace is you. You're the boss. Your team looks to you. Take responsibility for their fears and insecurities in the face of change, and find ways to keep everything smooth and on course. This will take a good deal of deliberation and conscious action on your part. Make yourself into the best leader you can be today. After all, despite what Hollywood may have you believe, leaders are not born—they are made.