Change management (part one): An outsider’s perspective


Poorly managed change and how it actually feels to those on the ground

Laura Handley, Business Development Lead, RedWizard

Having taught in state education for twenty years–facing continual curriculum change, redundancy twice and two academy conversions–I’ve been at the receiving end of much change! Most of it extremely stressful and entirely without long term benefit to those on the ground. So, I thought I’d share my own experience with you to highlight the human side of change and what it feels like when faced with the unknown. Here’s my story…

The unscheduled, anxiety-provoking, mandatory meeting

A meeting is called, all staff must attend with no exceptions. The invite is brief and gives little away. I begin to wonder why my manager never mentioned it—warning bells go off. Before the meeting even starts, I feel anxious and my palms start to sweat. Even my fitness tracker beeps with a heartrate warning!

Time for the meeting and everyone invited enters the room. I look around at all the worried faces, the atmosphere is heavy and stifling. The management team stand at one end–nervous, and fidgety. They tell us ‘the news’ and it sounds a bit like this… “we have to restructure, there’s no more budget, you’re not working hard enough, etc…

I start to worry and feel physically sick. Questions are buffeting around in my head, “Will I lose my job? How will the change affect me? What extra work are they expecting? Will I need to retrain? What happens if I can’t do what’s expected? I can’t possibly work any harder. I can’t cope with this change on the top of all the others and don’t want it…”

At this point, I’m handed a weighty document or dreaded envelope with a letter, white to be non-threatening. It usually reads a bit like this, “please read the information providedif you need more information our door is open… we want your input…it’s important to us that you have the opportunity to contribute to the process…etc…etc.” I’m sure you get the picture.

All these empty words have been heard many times before. It’s clear that the decisions made are final, and I have no say or influence over the outcome. This makes me wonder if I even matter!

After the meeting, I have a whinge-fest with colleagues. We all feel the same way about the changes or if we didn’t, we do now. My mind is full of negativity. I try to find someone or something to blame, everything I hear after that becomes a point of contention.

It’s the end of the day, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that change will undoubtedly occur, but one thing is for sure… I’m not happy!

So, why am I sharing my story?

It’s important to highlight the fact that many organisations still manage change poorly. When change impacts people’s lives, inside or outside of work, it can negatively affect a person’s health and wellbeing—if not managed in the right way.

Organizations need to make sure they’re answering these questions:

When we arrange a mandatory meeting due to change, how can we avoid people feeling anxious or negative?

How can we share key information differently to encourage active participation in the process?

How can we communicate key messages in a better way, to ensure people have answers and they know what to expect?

There’s definitely a better way forward

I’ll be sharing my thoughts regarding these questions in my next article. In the meantime, I’d love to hear yours! If you’ve insight into this issue just drop me an email.


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