Workplace change is common but not all managers do a good job of communicating change and helping employees cope with it. Fortunately, there are several things utilities can do to build trust between management and the rank and file during times of change while also reducing stress.
For many employers, memos and e-mails are the most common method to communicate workplace changes. Many employees are already on information overload and have way too many messages coming at them. They only skim through inter-office memos and e-mails and often miss important details regarding the changes. This can cause stress and frustration and start a destructive chain of gossip. Besides, memos and e-mails are impersonal and can be subject to misinterpretation.
So what can both management and individuals do to embrace change?
- Talk about the changes. Meet with individuals face to face and don’t be afraid to look them in the eye. People who are going to be affected by the change need a chance to be heard in a safe environment where they can talk about their fears and ask questions.
- Be honest. Job security is the number one concern of employees when they learn that workplace changes are occurring. If their jobs are secure, let them know right away. If not, meet with them privately to share what you know about how the changes may affect them.
- Focus on the benefits of the change. People want to know what’s in it for them. They are far more interested in how the change is going to affect their future than in how much money the company will save. So be specific. Let them know how the changes will benefit them.
- Demonstrate support. Managers must show their support for the change. Their employees must know that the boss is on board. Remember, actions speak far louder than words.
Even when management strives to incorporate workplace change as smoothly as possible, negative attitudes can develop. Here are some suggestions on how to turn negative attitudes around.
- Model positive behavior. Remember that attitudes start at the top of the organization. Managers who want their employees to have positive attitudes must demonstrate what that looks like every day through role modeling.
- Focus on solutions. Don’t fixate on problems and issues; focus on solutions and people. Identify the positives each day and talk about them. Recognize even the smallest actions that bring positive results.
- Hold team meetings. Invite everyone on the staff to share their creative ideas on how to make the work environment more enjoyable. Make sure these meetings are facilitated well to keep them from becoming gripe sessions.
- Avoid impromptu complaint sessions. When faced with negative conversations, try changing the subject or switch the focus to a discussion of what can be done about the problem.
- Acknowledge negativity. Ignoring negativity will not make it go away. Pay attention to the frustrations and negative feelings and then ask employees for their suggestions regarding what to do about the problems.
There are also things employees can do on their own to reduce stress during times of workplace change.
- Ignore rumors. Steer clear of the rumor mill. It will only confuse the facts and increase one’s level of frustration and worry.
- Create a stress-free zone. Employees should set aside two 10-minute blocks of quiet time during the work day to give themselves a mental health break. Arrive 10 minutes early so you have time to organize your thoughts and activities for the day. Give yourself another brief planning break after you return from lunch.
- Organize work area. A mess creates stress. Don’t shuffle the same papers from pile to pile. If necessary, stay late one night and go through every item on your desk. Don’t go home until everything has been tossed, filed, delegated or labeled. Then make a commitment to yourself to leave your desk completely clean at the end of each day.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.