A while ago I was chatting to a successful and well respected senior manager from a large corporate. Somehow we got talking about the fact that I had previously worked as a consultant with no ‘set’ desk in a ‘set’ office to go to each day; the look of horror and total disbelief was palpable. The mere idea of going to different clients in different organisations (even different cities) was abhorrent to his way of working.
At the time I thought little of it – if only to recognise that I would feel restricted and bored if I didn’t have the ever-changing dynamics of my job. Later I realised that for me it was a simple matter – it was ‘normal’ for me, AND I was in control of the situation.
How Change Matters to your People
Change depends on people. Organisations need to change to survive in dynamic times. We hear time and time again about successful organisations being those able to adapt to changing environmental (internal and external) factors. We also hear about those who ‘fail to change, fail to succeed’.
But what does change really mean to your organisation, to your people; there will be those who actively embrace change, the ones who adopt a “wait and see” attitude, and those who may consciously or unconsciously fear change.
The Phenomenon of ‘Change Fear’
Call it apprehension, anxiety, or dislike of the unknown, of being outside of your comfort zone or not in control of the immediate future, typically we have all experienced that twinge of ‘change fear’ at some point in our lives.
Some are bold and brave in the face of change fear; others show disdain; some jump in rallying to the change cry; we see everything from heroics, to avoidance to attitudes of ‘it won’t work’ to ‘how wonderful’.
So why is it that change can be so fearsome and confronting for some of us, yet embraced by others?
Awareness Confronts Change Fear
The simple fact is that the more we feel ‘in control’ of a change, the more we are prepared and understand (even if not agree to) change, the more likely that change will succeed. Put succinctly few of us like change being ‘done’ to us!
There are many theories on change from the Transition curve (or ‘change curve’ or ‘coping curve’) to Bridges’ Stages of Transition (Endings, Neutral zone and Beginnings) to motivation theories (such as Maslow) and Lewin’s often quoted 3 stage model of ‘unfreeze, change and freeze’.
6 Common Change Fear Factors
Whilst these theories seek to offer guidance and insight to change, it is useful to consider some of the common factors why we may fear change:
- ‘I don’t have time’. We are often too busy in the ‘now’ to even contemplate the energy required to take on a ‘new world’. How can we possibility take on something new when we have so much of the ‘day-to-day’ to deal with?
- ‘What’s the big deal?’ We may not see or understand the relevance of the change. What really is the value-add? Why are we considering such a change or why do I need to be involved?
- ‘We’ve always done it like this for the past x years’. This often relates back to anxieties about job security. Why can’t we continue on like we have – it’s always worked in the past!
- ‘It’s not broken, don’t fix it’. We may now need to learn something new that we might not initially ‘shine’ at. Again this can threaten people’s sense of security and adequacy to perform in a ‘new world’.
- Sense of loss of control. We are good at what we do – now that may change… We feel no longer in control of ‘what’s next’. This can be extremely ‘nerve wracking’ and confronting for some.
- Past experiences of change. A ‘poor’ change experience can colour future expectations about change. It didn’t work last time, why should it work this time?
Change is about people – change management is about understanding and leading people through what can be a difficult, challenging but hopefully rewarding experience.
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves…”
PM-Partners group offers Change Management Foundation and Practitioner courses. Buy online and save.