Organizations face change in predictable situations. That change - often brought by a new leader must be done in ways that minimize the anxiety and uncertainty to staff and constituents. That means that good process must be run, input sought, dialogue practiced and there are no great surprises. Even with this, however, needed change is hard and often causes anxiety among leaders, staff and boards.

In major organizational change it is not unusual that some people choose to leave or are let go. This is normal. Often, those individuals have alliances, friendships or relationships with others who take up their case and put pressure on the powers that be to change their minds. This is normal. If both of these are normal, we ought not allow their presence to cause anxiety or concern. It is an inevitable part of the change process.

In major organizational change it is not unusual for those who don't like the change to make their gripes public. This is normal. They are unhappy and are likely to take it out on the leader who is bringing changes to the organization. Assuming that this leader is bringing change with sensitivity and concern for those involved, there is no reason to back down simply because unhappy voices are heard. They are usually responding out of fear rather than animosity. It is a normal part of the change process.

Change brings with it a need for people to make choices about their ongoing participation in the organization. Long time leaders may choose to leave - graciously or ungraciously. Often staff and boards take this as a sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with the changes taking place. Not necessarily! It is often simply that they don't want to make the personal changes they would have to make to fit into the new paradigm. That is not good or bad but simply a decision as to how they respond to the new paradigms. This is normal and to be expected. Even board members may choose to exit as they realize that it is a new day with new leadership and new paradigms. Again, this is normal.

Major organizational changes can bring a high level of anxiety to an organization. Most people are by nature change adverse - middle and late adapters, and laggards. Change brings uncertainty and uncertainty makes many uncomfortable and discomfort causes a level of dysfunction as the ground seems to be shifting for those who love stability. In these times of change there can be a high level of angst among staff. This is normal. Indeed, there is no way to negotiate change without angst and uncertainty. 

The common thread here is that these responses to change are normal and should be expected. In addition, they are not a sign that the organization is failing or falling apart. If anything they are signs that necessary changes are underway (organizations that do not change die) and that someone with courage is leading. As long as good process is being followed (and that is a big deal), we should not be intimidated by push back to change. It will happen, it is normal and it is the price of bringing needed change.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

  • Feb 10, 2015
  • Category: News
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