Change Management & Reactions to Change

Image: Change Management & Reactions to Change

Leading & Managing Change

While you may not be responsible for initiating or leading a major change initiative, as a leader you will be required to implement changes and to lead your teams though the change process.

At a very macro level, there are essentially two types of changes that you will need to manage: organizational change and individual change. Organizational change involves changes that the business undertakes in order to improve. These could be new processes, technology, organizational structures, products/services, or business models.

Individual change involves the process that each employee undergoes during his/her own personal transition through change. This is the people side of change. It is the most difficult element of the change management process and it is often the most poorly managed by leaders.  Successful organizational change is completely dependent on effective individual change.

Stages of Individual Change for Employees

Regardless of the type of organizational change that you are leading, there are three changes that employees must go through to ensure that change is solidified.

  • Stage one: Undoing

    • Before change can occur, employees need to let go of their old ways of doing things or their old identity. At this stage, it is important that there be a strong motivation for change by employees along with clear communication by leaders as to what the vision for the future looks like.

  • Stage two: Learning

    • In stage two, employees must learn new concepts and new ways of doing things. At this stage it is important that there are role models to demonstrate new behaviours, attitudes and tasks.

  • Stage three: Locking in

    • The final stage is locking in and internalizing the new concepts/behaviours/actions so that change can be solidified. At this stage, people need to let go of the past and incorporate the new reality into their self-concept.

Generational Considerations to Change Management

The acceptance of change and the willingness to embrace it is largely dependent on the experiences that employees have had in the past. No one generation is more or less likely to resist change and it is fair to anticipate  resisters to change from all four generations.

In a Traditionalist’s world, change only happened when there was a good reason for it. The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ was often applied. Change was not undertaken lightly and, if things were working, they remained the same.  For change to be accepted, it must be linked to how it will benefit the organization and must fix an existing problem.

Baby Boomers tend to be cautious of change. Their reluctance isn’t a result of not wanting to seek improvements, but as a result of the fact that many Baby Boomers lost their jobs during the recessions of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which made them wary of broad organizational changes. They also had to endure “flavour of the month” leadership changes and shifts back-and-forth in strategy which translated into a lack of enthusiasm for new changes. In principle, Baby Boomer employees may not resist the change but they may be less excited about it than younger generations if they believe that it will be short lived.

Generation X is skeptical of leaders’ motivations and intentions when implementing change. They want to know the benefits of change, most notably to them, and what they will gain by adopting a new approach. Resistance occurs if they believe the change will hinder their ability to achieve results. If involved in the planning process, Gen Xers will focus on setting targets for how performance can increase as a result of the change.

Gen Ys have grown up in a world where change is constant and where technology changes every 3-6 months. This has translated into a culture where Gen Y employees expect organizational change to occur quickly and frequently. Resistance to change happens if the initiative is entirely driven from the top or if there is a sense that the change is too minor and insignificant to make an impact.

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