Individual reactions to change

Ultimately all organisations are made up of people, so it makes sense that even with the best project plans in the world, if you don’t manage people effectively then your change initiative won’t be successful. Individual comfort zones One way of considering how to manage people through change is to consider everyone as having a comfort zone, that is a way of operating and understanding their world within which they feel safe. Everyone’s comfort zone is unique. Some things which might be safe to one person will strike fear into the heart of another. In the same way changes at work will stretch the comfort zones of some people and might be hardly noticed by others. Changes such as moving to a different office, changing working patterns or having a new manager can be disorienting for staff and volunteers and you will want to consider likely reactions and responses. It is generally acknowledged that some stretching of people’s comfort zones is healthy. Indeed some gentle challenge may build confidence as people realise they are capable of more than they realised. However, sudden change, or too much change causes stress and anxiety. The result of this is that people will tend to retreat to where they feel safe and can become very reluctant to adapt.  Take a look at understanding and managing resistance for guidance on managing this. So when you are introducing change, try to do it gradually , gently stretching boundaries, allowing people’s confidence to grow in their ability to change. Stages of coping with change Elizabeth Kubler Ross undertook some groundbreaking work on how people cope after bereavement which illustrates the difficulties for people coping with change. While usually less extreme, the stages which people go following bereavement can be very similar to individuals coping with significant change at work.

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