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Successfully Navigate Change in Your Agency

Change is hard, and it’s even more difficult when not everyone is on board or understands why it’s necessary. As a new supervisor, how can you get your employees on the same page and moving forward?  

Jennifer R. Franks, Director, Information Technology and Cybersecurity Team, and Taka Ariga, Chief Data Scientist and Director, both with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, had a few tips for successfully incorporating change during the New Supervisors in Gov Virtual Networking Event on Feb. 27.  

Supervisors are often the go-between for leadership and staff, and that typically puts them in the position to sell upcoming changes to their team. Franks said that your team will feel your energy as you’re guiding them through new processes, so it’s important that you are confident.  

“Your team is going to be apprehensive and resistant if you don’t believe in what you’re telling them,” she explained, adding your support, along with proper training, will go a long way in making changes go smoothly.  

Ariga said the answer to change isn’t shying away, because change is coming, and its success depends on being adaptable. In order to adapt, he emphasized how important it is to educate your workforce and develop documentation to guide them through changes and get buy-in.   

Franks agreed, saying that “we’re creatures of habit, and there’s often this feeling of ‘why now’ or ‘it’s not the right time.’”  

To get past that, there must be informative conversations about why the decision for change was made, how it will impact everyone’s daily work, and the timeframe in which it will occur.  
“You don’t want to catch people off guard,” she said. “You need to provide context and let people know what to expect.”  

Added Ariga, “the credibility of the change is paramount. Showing the ‘why’ is essential for employees who are happy with the status quo.”  

“To the extent it’s possible, I like to share what’s behind the curtain and what leadership is thinking,” he said. “I also don’t want people to read about changes in an email or memo; I want to be deliberate in how that news is delivered to give context.”  

Even with thorough explanations and expectations, not everyone is going to embrace change. As a supervisor, how do you convert those who are resisting?  

Franks said it’s about being a calming force and keeping your emotions balanced during tough conversations with those who are opposed, focusing on why the organization is moving in that direction. 

She also pointed out that it’s not always possible to get 100 percent of employees on board, and that’s OK.   

“If there are those who are not willing, focus on the ones who are and who want to evolve with the agency,” she said. 

For more helpful advice, join us next month for our next New Supervisors in Gov session, “How to Recognize Employees (Without Funding)” on March 20.

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