Change – denial and minimisation
Change at work
The reactions at work, in the face of major change, are often along the lines of: “It (whatever it is) won’t make much different to me, I’ll just carry on as normal” or “we’ve tried to change this before and it didn’t work, it won’t happen now”. If you are the one initiating or managing the change or the team, during this time it can seem daunting, dealing with people who seem to be disengaged or not understand what will happen and what they may need to do. As a manager / leader:
- remember it’s a natural reaction
- it is a temporary state
- you need to talk to people
However comprehensive the business communication is, those who are struggling most to move forward in some way, or are particularly vocal and negative with others, will need individual conversations. Talk to them:
- help them understand what is going on
- be prepared to listen to their worries
- only promise what is in your control such as “I’ll pass your concerns on” or help them see what they can personally do to find out more, maybe there’s a confidential email box or Q&A session
However much this is a business change, people’s reactions will be personal. And some work changes are indeed personal, such as redundancy, where the work practicalities will be secondary to the personal, emotional side for many people, including those not made redundant.
Dealing with a tragedy
After a sudden death, it is common to hear someone say “at least they didn’t suffer”; or when someone has been ill for some time, you hear “now they are at peace and their suffering is over”. This is our attempt to minimise the impact in some way, make ourselves feel better after such a loss. You also hear some people simply say “No” when they hear such news and even “you’re joking?”, denying the truth completely. These are all coping mechanisms, even if often hard on the person re-telling you the news.
If you are coping with dealing with such an issue, find the best way for you to deal with it, whether that is talking to the right person for you, contacting a helpline or counsellor or writing things down. After a marital split, one of my friends kept two note books 1 the practical things, what they’d each said and what needed to be done and when; 2 their thoughts and feelings, not for sharing with anyone. Some people write their thoughts and feelings down then physically destroy the negative ones – handwritten or printed notes, torn or burnt.
What can I do?
I am not a trained counsellor, although I have some experiences which have helped me help others and where I’ve had help from others. I work with business change projects, helping leaders to anticipate the stages their colleagues will go through and how to help this, in the context of the project. Managing these emotions at work, where they’re often least expected, is as important – get in touch if you are involved with a business project. If there’s any kind of change, these issues will be there ….