To complete our month of looking at organisational culture we’re turning to the tricky topic of how to help your colleagues manage conflict and resistance during times of change.

The transformation curve

Change can affect individuals in a variety of ways: During change, people can move through several stages – fear, denial, acceptance and finally growth as identified in Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s grief cycle. We looked at this model last week and it’s often the one that is used to illustrate some of the common effects that personal change can have on an individual’s morale over time.

Let’s look at these stages in more detail and think about some examples of potential behaviours that can arise at each point of the cycle.

The individual is fearful of the impending change and what it will mean for them personally.

Some typical thoughts and questions…

“Will I still have a job?”
“Will I still want to be here?”
“What will happen to my promotion chances?”
“Can I do what is expected of me in the new job or new processes?”
“Will I lose the friends around me?”
“Will I be supported?”
“Will I be happy in the new location?”

The individual operates in denial that the changes will actually happen. They carry on doing what they have always done, unconvinced of the need to do anything differently.

Some typical thoughts and questions…

“They always start things here but nothing ever really changes; not in all the time I have been here anyway!”
“I’ll just sit tight and keep doing what I am doing and wait until it blows over; it will never happen.”
“They wouldn’t…..”

Over time when things do begin to change around them despite their denial, the individual may finally come to accept that the change is happening.

Some typical thoughts and questions…

“Oh well, I suppose I need to bite the bullet.”
“I can’t avoid using the new system / procedure any longer I suppose.”

Once the individual has accepted the changes and the new ways / systems / procedures etc. become embedded and common practice, individuals move into a stage of growth where they have become accustomed to the changes.

Some typical thoughts and questions…
“Now I get it.”
“Let’s get on with it.”
“Now I see the benefits.”

Knowing where you (or your colleagues) are on the cycle can ‘normalise’ your experience and help you manage the rougher edges of change.

Dealing with conflict during change

We can look at managing conflicts by bearing the following in mind:

Determining whether a conflict is real/assessing the needs involved
Changing the situation as a creative solution of the problem
Equal restriction of all stakeholders (compromise) and/or
Majority decision

The key to the all of the above is communication, communication, communication! We have said it before but it really is the way forward and to make things simple (but not simplistic), we have broken this down into different areas.

Communicating Expectations

Feedback is central to managing performance so communicating expectations, setting clear goals and then coaching towards the achievement of those goals is key to successful change management.

However, a change initiative can introduce uncertainties and unknowns into this process.

Overall Communication

It is really important during times of change to ensure that the leaders of the organisation walk the talk and lead by example. Senior people leaders need to be seen demonstrating active and visible participation. Communications need to describe the reasons/need for change and how this will impact and benefit staff.

So we need to be open with expressing the strategy behind decisions to implement organisational change, anticipate and expect conflict and resistance, manage the whole process through a balance of involvement and strategic intent and above all ensure that people feel empowered through open communication.

And so to our final model, because this is neatly summarised in the three phases of Prosci’s organisational change management methodology:

Phase 1: Preparing for change.
Phase 2: Managing change.
Phase 3: Reinforcing change.

At Cerulean we offer in-depth sessions and courses to help you manage all these stages of organisational change so have a look at our workshops and tailored training or contact us directly if you would like to discuss how we can help your business grow and develop.

You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and next month we will look at the past year and start looking forward to Christmas.

Imogen @ Cerulean