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Types of reaction to change

People show their emotions to change in different ways. We’ve considered two different scenarios to manage change communications and looked at ways meaning can be misinterpreted. Now we’re going to spend some time thinking about the types of response you may experience/observe and the possible reasons for them.

Typically, organisational change brings uncertainty and is not a single event with neat and tidy beginnings and endings. Instead it often comes from two or more directions at the same time, which may add to the uncertainty experienced by some individuals. There can be a lack of information about what is being proposed, such as what will change, when and how it will change and what the impact will be on jobs. Uncertainty can also relate to whether or not employees perceive that the organisation is capable of implementing the change successfully. Clearly reducing uncertainty can result in more positive employee perceptions and behaviours and improve employee reactions and change-related outcomes.

Change can also bring anxiety. Perhaps past experiences, fears or worries might surface which an individual relates to previous change processes. It may also bring cynicism if there is a lack of confidence in management and/or a history of changes that have not been successful.

People may go through three phases as they transition through change as this diagram illustrates, and which we’ll revisit during the next activity.

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  1. Reconciliation – the letting go of current ways of working and behaving, which can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
  2. Reorientation – exploring new ways of working and behaving aligned to what is changing.
  3. Recommitment – a time of acceptance and commitment to what is changing.

Clearly it’s important to try and understand, of the stakeholders you identify at the start of the change process, what their reactions to the change may be. You may find it useful to use the reactions to change grid (downloadable below) to map out where your stakeholders are in order to better focus your efforts in addressing this.

Reflection point

What barriers do you think there could be to communicating and having a productive dialogue with individuals experiencing difficulty in accepting change? Have you experience of this - if so, how did you deal with it?

In the next step, we’ll spend some time thinking about how, as leaders and managers, we can develop ethical responses to the change process.

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This article is from the free online course:

Leading and Managing People-Centred Change

Durham University