Changes in the workplace can be chaotic at times. Employees often worry about changes for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it’s doubt that the change will lead to improvements. Or they are concerned that the change will hinder their work or ultimately endanger their job security. While some caution may be warranted, and concern can indicate care for the company, there have been countless cases where fear leads to internal resistance and failure.
But, if the end goal of a change within a company is to ultimately better itself, why do managers so often struggle to convince their employees of the necessity of the change? As any counselor will tell you, the most important aspect to any relationship is a sense of trust. While it is not the only factor to consider, it is the most important and often the most difficult one to obtain.
Building trust takes time and consistency, and is typically much easier to break than build. But, managers who consistently demonstrate the following three qualities are far less likely to face failure in their attempts to initiate change within their organizations:
Clarity: Clear, honest and straightforward communication is a foundation of building trust amongst employees. The absence of lying is not enough to achieve the goal. Whether intentional or not, an omission of information will lead to suspicion, rumors, and ultimately endanger projects. A dishonest reputation can also prohibit future workplace changes from succeeding. Managers who do not attempt to communicate the goals of a project out of fear that employees will react poorly, usually face the same results. Every action communicates something, including a lack of communication.
Care: While honesty is a necessity, it is not enough to just pass along information if you seek to build trust. When employees see that their managers truly care about their well-being, and not solely about the bottom line, they are far more likely to believe that the intentions of the project will lead to positive results. Even when a change may not necessarily aid every individual employee, projects are far more likely to succeed when employees believe the intentions are good for the group as a whole. An honest employer who lacks a caring reputation will not win trust and will continue to struggle with resistance to change.
Competency: A manager who demonstrates care and honesty, will still find that he lacks trust if employees are not confident in his ability. Managers who have consistently demonstrated an ability to carry out their goals and handle unexpected barriers will find far more trust from their employees than a manager who is viewed as unprepared, or unaware of the challenges that their proposed changes will create. Not only do managers need to have the know-how, they need to demonstrate it to employees. While managers with good, long-standing reputations have an advantage, they still need to reinforce that they can and will handle any issues that arise as a result of the changes.
As a communications specialist, Shane approaches change management from a variety of perspectives. By considering the needs of project managers and affected employees, he develops change management and communications strategies that address the people side of business transitions. Using data collection and analysis as guides, he seeks to identify potential issues and address them proactively rather than reactively.