Updated: Sep 14, 2021
By Dr. Robyn Short, CEO of Workplace Peace Institute
Organizations going through significant change inevitably run into conflict. It is not a matter of if, but when. Whether the change is driven by new product or service offerings or growth through mergers and acquisitions, change rattles people. And that rattling echoes throughout the organization.
Core to the human experience is the need for safety and security, and change often cultivates an environment in which people do not feel safe. This perceived lack of security diminishes morale, decreases trust, suppresses employee engagement, and can have a devastating impact on employee retention and overall productivity.
More often than not, organizational change outpaces the communication strategy designed to inform employees of the change. This means that people often experience the consequences of change prior to receiving information about the change itself. Additionally, employees are rarely, if ever, asked how they feel about the change. And feelings matter … a lot.
This all has a compounding affect.
During times of change, people crave information. In the absence of information, people tend to fill the information void with assumptions. Those assumptions inform how a person feels, and those feelings inform behavior.
During times of change, people crave information. In the absence of information, people tend to fill the information void with assumptions. Those assumptions inform how a person feels, and those feelings inform behavior. When actual information does eventually roll out from the organization, the “feelings” side of the equation remains absent. Yet, how a person feels about a situation drives how they choose to behave in response to the information. Which is why it is of paramount importance to engage employees at every level of the organization in “feelings” conversations.
Successful change management strategies incorporate professionally facilitated group dialogues that, by design, help employees identify, label, and express the feelings they are experiencing as a result of the organizational change.
Successful change management strategies incorporate professionally facilitated group dialogues that, by design, help employees identify, label, and express the feelings they are experiencing as a result of the organizational change. This process enables latent conflicts to emerge in a way that supports understanding and enables collaborative approaches to conflict management to surface. Employees experience a greater sense of safety and stability knowing that how they experience the organizational change matters. This has an obvious impact on employee retention, morale, and, therefore, employee engagement and productivity.
Every change management strategy should take into consideration the way the change is felt by the individual contributors of the organization. Employing a professional facilitator to lead dialogues designed to bring feelings to the surface will payoff in spades in how the change is embraced throughout the organization.
An international speaker, peace-building trainer and mediator with expertise in restorative justice and transformative mediation models, Dr. Robyn Short works with individuals, corporations, and nonprofit organizations in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. In addition to her mediation and conflict training practice through Workplace Peace Institute, Dr. Short is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University in the Master of Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution program, the Master of Leadership and Negotiation at Bay Path University, and Lipscomb University's Master in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution. She has guest lectured at Pepperdine University and Creighton University. Dr. Short has authored four books on peace building.