Change in the workplace is often inevitable. Change can be imposed by outside circumstances, like the marketplace, or be part of a larger institutional plan to create growth and improvement. Yet often the focus is more on how to transition systems and processes, with many organizations ignoring the ‘people side’ of transitions. Regardless of the cause, managing reactions to change – uncertainty, resistance, low morale – can be made easier if you have begun to build a culture of appreciation.
Interestingly, when employees feel truly appreciated for what they do and who they are, resistance to change can be reduced significantly. Laying a foundation of appreciation with your colleagues can go a long way in helping them approach organizational changes with a more open mind. Why is this the case?
First, when employees feel positively about themselves at work, they are able to “hear” the information presented about upcoming changes more clearly. Team members who have a sense of being valued are less defensive when presented with the news that change in the organization will be occurring. They do not have the extra noise of internal distractions that gets in the way of being able to listen and “hear” the facts presented.
A sense of feeling valued, even in the midst of significant organizational change, can help ease employees’ initial emotional reactions. Responses of intense anxiety, fear, or confrontational disagreement become less frequent. All of these reactions are normal when an employee faces uncertainty. But when team members experience support from one another, they are better able to manage these reactions. For example, Keira shared in a team meeting with her supervisor, “This whole ‘change thing’ scares me. I’m not sure if it will work and I’m afraid that eventually my job won’t be needed. But, Lisa, I know you work for what is best for all of us and if you say we should do it, I’ll go along even though I have my doubts.”
FEELING APPRECIATED CREATES ENERGY FOR CHANGE
Resisting something takes energy (if you’re a runner, think about how tired you become after running on a windy day). Resistance consumes energy needed for other tasks, including implementing the changes themselves. Since each of us has a limited amount of physical and emotional energy, when resistance lessens, more energy becomes available for constructive tasks.
Additionally, communicating authentic appreciation among colleagues injects positive energy into a workplace. When team members feel valued and appreciated, they become more energized. They have a greater capacity for creative problem solving and persevering through difficult tasks. Team members work together more effectively. This surge of positive energy can help organizational change occur more quickly.
We have had the privilege to work with a division of a large telecommunications company in training supervisors and front-line staff in how to effectively communicate authentic appreciation to one another. The company was then acquired by another firm, triggering major changes across the whole organization. During the transition, leaders, both mid-level managers and upper-level executives, observed and repeatedly commented on how much more smoothly the staff who had been trained in authentic appreciation adjusted to the changes than the divisions who did not have this foundation established.
Appreciation in the workplace has many benefits, from reducing absenteeism to increasing retention. Organizations that work to develop an atmosphere of authentic appreciation will find that their employees are not only happier and more engaged, but better able to manage change and and move forward in a positive direction.