In Times of Change Good Managers Address Their Needs First


Managers often think that their jobs start and stop with following performance protocols and ensuring that work is getting done. However, more and more our organizations are inundated with change, and being an effective manager in today’s climate means knowing how to manage through change.

So how do you get started?  The answer is simple – you get to know yourself first.

Ask the “What’s-in-it-for-Me (WIIFM)” Questions

When something new is introduced to you, what’s your initial reaction?

How will this impact me?
Why is this happening?
Are you changing something because there’s something wrong? Is it me?
How could YOU do this to ME?

We’re humans and as humans we need to know how something will impact us before we can be of use to anyone else.  This is our normal, human reaction to learning that something new is coming.

So what does this mean for you, a dedicated manager? It means that you need to address your concerns before you can help you employees manage their own.

You can find information that will genuinely address your concerns by asking the right questions of the right people. Ask those managing the change: Why? What’s the purpose? Why change now? What’s in it for the organization? Who will be impacted, how and when? Of course, you will never know everything, but it is important to address enough of your concerns so that you can concentrate on the future and those you manage.

Once you’ve found answers, you’ll be prepared to respond to what are likely similar questions from your employees. Think back to how you felt when things were uncertain, and what answers helped you. Thankfully, research shows that in times of change, employees want to hear messages about the change directly from their managers.[i]

You are the right messenger. Now you need to be empathetic and listen to employees’ needs to deliver a meaningful message.

But that’s just the beginning.

Manage Your Productivity Dip

It’s inevitable: when change is introduced we all experience a dip in our productivity. We are distracted by the WIIFM questions and feelings of self-doubt associated with the introduction of change. Our job as managers is to understand when a lack of desire, feelings of resistance and that ensuing productivity dip are related to the announcement that change is on the horizon.

Understanding yourself is the first step in managing your reactions. Think about why you are experiencing these feelings in the first place – perhaps you have lingering concerns? Do you need to remind yourself of times that you’ve successfully worked through a change and come out the other side in a better place? Can you reflect on the importance of your organization’s evolution to meet shifting needs?

Once you’ve considered the issues that may stand in the way of your ability to accept the change, you’re ready to help employees recognize and manage their own “dips.”

Your Oxygen Mask Is On, Now You May Assist Others 

When you see employees struggle to keep a positive attitude or maintain productivity it’s time to check-in and communicate. For example, if an employee tells you that they’re worried about how they will fit into this new scenario, remind them that you believe in their ability to succeed. Keep the discussion open, and help them focus on solution-oriented actions. Create a space for growth, not complaint. In the end, every positive experience will build a staff member’s ability to deal with change, even when the change itself does not go as planned.

Ready the Ship for Change

Since you know that your employees want to hear directly from you about the change, it is up to you to consistently provide them with information that can help them move forward. At times, you and your employees may feel yourselves slipping back into feelings of concern or productivity dips. This is just you being a human again. Consistent information sharing will help you quell this. Even if you don’t have new information to share, you can reinforce what you do know such as the rationale behind the change and how it is intended to improve the organization.

Thanks to your thoughtful efforts, you will start to see change champions emerge – staff members who are excited about an upcoming change. Reinforce this positivity by asking them to share their thoughts with the team, and thank them for their continued support.

Finally, it’s important to remember that if you are struggling in times of change it does not mean that you are a bad manager, but it does mean that you need to pay attention to your feelings and ensure that you are diligently working to manage them. Nothing is worse than wallowing in feelings of resistance and a drop in productivity. You have the tools to help yourself, and then your employees, successfully thrive in a changing workplace.

[i] Prosci, Best Practices in Change Management

Emily Yahr is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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