How to Thrive During an Office Shake-Up: Q&A with Psychologist Amy Wood
May 2, 2019
When companies restructure their organization or experience a pivotal change, it’s essential to get employees on board and keep them motivated for the change ahead — despite the uncertainty. Change is tough for anyone, so the transition can be a challenge to navigate for executives, managers, employees and HR folks alike. Here, Amy Wood, licensed psychologist and author of "Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-paced World," says that persevering through change happens best when leadership communicates clearly, keeps an optimistic perspective and is understanding.
What is the best way company leaders can prepare employees for reorganization or other changes?
Leaders should get clear on what is happening, determine a strategy for implementing the change step by step, and then deliver the news to employees. The most important thing is for employees to know how they will be impacted so that they don’t think of worst case scenarios based on gossip or incomplete information. News should be communicated by the head of the organization — in person at an assembly if possible, or via email or Skype if the organization has too many separate divisions to allow face-to-face contact with all employees simultaneously. The point is that all employees should find out at the same time, and everyone should have the opportunity to ask questions and receive honest, clarifying answers.
When a company is in full transition, what are some actions HR and executives can take to help things along?
As soon as the news is announced, direct supervisors should gather staff together and communicate the steps involved in the change, reiterating that questions are welcome and will be answered as quickly and fully as possible. Again, the idea is to be completely clear so that everything is out in the open and accurate. People get anxious when they have insufficient information, or when they know that a big change is coming and there is no strategy. Change becomes manageable when people know what to expect and are able to adjust step by step as a conscientious plan for transformation is executed.
How can the leaders keep employees excited and motivated for the upcoming transition?
By emphasizing positive results that can be expected from the change. Excitement can best be generated by showing genuine appreciation to employees for their commitment to the organization, and by encouraging them to use their unique talents and skills to make the change a rewarding experience.
How can managers help employees deal with the difficulties of change while keeping them on task?
Change is a constant in most organizations because our culture is moving at a fast clip that is only going to speed up as time goes on. That said, the most successful way to deal with change is to create resilience in all employees through ongoing personal and professional development. When employees are encouraged to strengthen and fortify themselves — not just when organizational changes are imminent, but all the time — change is more likely to be a positive and efficient experience for all involved.
Managers can best support employees during times of change by understanding that change triggers fear and anxiety in most adults. Managers should participate in training on the process of change and transition so that they can serve as experienced navigators. Understanding that change is stressful, managers should encourage employees to take excellent care of themselves through the change process. Employees will be more present at work overall if they are provided with ample time and space to deal with the change psychologically and emotionally.
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