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Submitted by the USPS Employee Assistance Program
One thing certain in life is that change happens. How we handle change, whether in our personal or work lives, can vary greatly among us. In work environments, how a change is handled is strongly influenced by leadership.
Teams tend to react better and navigate change more smoothly when they are led by positive influences. By demonstrating and modeling positive behaviors and tuning in to the needs of their team, managers and supervisors can help their team members successfully adapt and accept changes in the workplace. The teams that adapt best to change are those that focus on the process of change and the people going through the change.
The Process of Change
When going through significant changes, there are several stages or emotional experiences that most people typically go through.
Avoidance. When change initially occurs, people may experience shock, denial, minimization and disbelief. They may have the sense that the change is not really happening or it doesn’t seem real. Some may make a concerted effort to not think about the change or intentionally avoid trying to deal with its implications. When change is unexpected or forced on us, people may feel helpless or a loss of control.
Anger and opposition. Dealing with change often can lead to feelings of fear about the future and resentment about having to change routines or responsibilities. Employees may feel uncertainty about expectations. There often is a strong feeling of insecurity about having to leave familiar routines and comfort zones.
Analyzing and investigating. Once the initial shock wears off, people often go through a period of analyzing and information-gathering. At this point, employees are moving toward acceptance of the change and can begin to focus on stress management and self-care skills.
Acceptance. As employees move toward acceptance of the change, there often is a shift toward relying on relationships, resources and stress-management skills to move forward. At this stage, many people recognize change is happening and begin to picture themselves and their futures in the new reality.
As a leader, it is important to recognize the different phases of change that people experience and, despite experiencing the same change, your team members may all be at different places at any given time. When change happens to us, it is external. The transition employees go through is personal.
One particular challenge for leaders dealing with change is they must manage their employees’ reactions to change, as well as their own personal reactions. Make sure to acknowledge and manage your own stress, stay balanced, use your support system and practice self-care.
Mindfulness and Communication Skills for Leaders
As a supervisor, it is important to understand how a team works simultaneously, as well as how workers function as individuals. Supervising a team can be like completing a puzzle. Because everyone has different strengths and needs, supervisors must be aware of these differences to create a highly functioning team. Forcing individuals to fit in jobs they do not understand or work well in is very similar to forcing a puzzle piece into an area it does not go.
Try your best to stay in the moment and be mindful of your employees and their individual differences in the workplace, especially when navigating the change process. Try to resolve conflict and effectively influence others by communicating in a socially competent manner.
Recognize differences. Understand that your team members may differ in how they cope with stress, how they communicate and how they learn. Your team members all have stress and experiences outside of work that may impact how they function at work. By taking the time to learn and know your team members and how they best respond to you, you will be much more effective in your communication as a leader.
Communicate clearly. Be available and visible to your team members and create clear expectations. Let your team know you are open to input and communication will be ongoing. Have regular updates and briefings on the changes occurring.
Be mindful of your verbal and nonverbal communication. Your employees are taking cues from you, so be aware of what you are saying and how you are saying it. Pay attention to your body language, which can greatly impact how a message is received. Try not to interrupt, no matter how you feel.
Consider timing and prepare for pushback. By knowing your employees, you will be able to discern when is a good time to deliver news and when is not. When employees express frustration or anger, try to focus on what is being said—not how it is being said.
Clarify what you are hearing and ask yourself if there is any truth to what you are hearing. Don’t take others’ views and opinions personally. Know when to take a break when emotions escalate and discussions become nonproductive.
Promote EAP benefits. Make sure your team members are aware of support resources, including the Employee Assistance Program. Through coaching, counseling and in-the-moment support, the EAP is a great resource to help you and your employees navigate change.
Strategies for Helping Your Team Positively Adapt to Change
Interpret and communicate. When helping your team navigate change, it is important to be honest, transparent and available. Provide information as you get it and recognize that it is okay to say you don’t know something or don’t have all the answers. Allow time to respond to your teams’ concerns and recognize that, by giving space for people to express their concerns, you are helping them process and adjust to the changes.
Support and empower. Change can be very disruptive. As much as possible, help provide structure for your team. Provide opportunities for staff development and additional training as your team adjusts to the changes.
Motivate and energize. Remember, you set the tone for your team. If you can bring positive energy and optimism when discussing change, you likely will see a positive response from your team. Help your team members see their purpose in the changes and help them understand the why behind the changes.
Focus on what employees want and need. Most employees want and need information, input and the ability to be successful. Make sure you are providing information as you receive it and are open to feedback. Allowing team members to provide input on the changes is a great opportunity to build trust and rapport with your team.
As a manager, you may not be able to implement the suggestions of your team members. But providing opportunity for input is an important way to help your employees feel valued and appreciated. Make sure your team members have the tools they need to be successful in their roles.
Listen actively and empathetically. By truly taking the time to listen to your employees’ concerns, you are demonstrating that you care and respect your team members. Reflect back the concerns your team members bring to you to make sure you really understand what they are saying. Allowing employees to vent, ask questions and provide input and feedback is an important part of successfully navigating change.
Whenever teams go through changes, there will be stressful moments and unknown situations to work through in these big adjustments. However, the more you can keep a steady, aware and nonreactive attitude toward your employees, as well as support good feelings in your workplace, the better your team will come through the change. If you can be a mindful leader and keep away from negative feelings, you will be able to perceive situations clearly and be a role model of positivity.
The Employee Assistance Program is here to help you lead through changes and support a positive and well-functioning work environment. We want you and your team to benefit from wellness and a positive mindset. Use us for counseling, life coaching and consultation services. For more information, visit EAP4YOU.com or contact your EAP at 800-327-4968 (800-EAP-4YOU); TTY: 877-493-7341.