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A 5 Step Process for Minimizing the Fear of Change

minimize fear of change

People are the most comfortable operating within the well-worn grooves of the status quo.

No news is usually good news and as long as everyone’s individual needs are being met, everything is good. However…

When people see, detect, or anticipate change heading their way, feelings of fear move to the forefront of their minds, and some may begin to wonder…

  1. Whether or not changes are going to affect their income and compensation
  2. Whether or not their job will be eliminated after the change is implemented, or simply phased out over time
  3. Whether or not they will still enjoy their job after the change is implemented
  4. New expectations of their jobs
  5. Potential changes in how their performance will be measured
  6. How their relationships with co-workers and management may change
  7. How the change will impact company culture
  8. How the change will spark additional changes
  9. Other fears, based on their personal circumstance

And of course, management fears change as well. Change is costly and risky. If change doesn’t go smoothly and as planned, changing back to the former way of doing things, if even possible, will be viewed by some as a sign of failure.

When reverting to the old ways of doing things seems to be the only option, it also gives employees ammunition to justifiably resist change in the future (“We tried doing something like that before and it was a disaster!”).

Equally concerning are any defiant employees unwilling to cooperate, and instead of creatively thinking through small obstacles that get in the way of making change a success, some may choose to sabotage efforts to change to prove to management that they were wrong and the “people doing the actual work” were right.

Get your people involved in the process

Even though you cannot completely eliminate everyone’s fears or acts of defiance, oftentimes the best way to make sure change will be a success is by involving people in the decision-making process.

To do so, consider the following five-step approach to successfully initiate and implement change at your company.

1) Warm your people up to your thoughts of change by explaining WHAT change you’re thinking of making, WHY it’s necessary, and the BENEFITS it will bring to everyone as well as to the company. Give people several days to let the thought of change sink in while encouraging them to submit/ask questions. Assure them that you or someone from your leadership team will respond to their questions by a certain date.

Given that we’re still dealing with COVID and bringing everyone together in the same room to present such news is not really an option, you could accomplish this through an email, but preferably through a Zoom conference. For plant employees on the manufacturing floor, consider socially distanced group meetings.

This step is going to eliminate the “Nobody asked me for my opinion!” comments, if and when the change is implemented.

2) Promptly respond to everyone’s questions and concerns in the same format as you used to communicate your suggested change.

Don’t wait too long to respond. Based on the real and perceived significance of your suggested change, the “unknown” and its associated fears are going to be distracting enough to affect productivity, and in the absence of follow-up clarification, it may even cause some false rumors to float around your company. And as you know, rumors are rarely positive.

3) Share your decision to move forward with change along with your supporting facts and research as well as your careful consideration of the thoughts, concerns, and questions your people have shared with you.

4) Begin asking for everyone’s input on what they believe needs to change internally to optimize success. In other words, find out what needs to happen before you initiate change so that everything will go as smoothly as possible, mitigating the risk of failure.

5) Ask people to volunteer as change agents, as you’ll certainly need their help and leadership to make the change a success. Reward them for their leadership, make the process fun and it will likely inspire others to become a part of making change successful.

The reason this five-step approach works is because everyone will be brought along in every step of the decision-making and implementation process.

Even if some don’t agree with your decision, they will be more accepting because they were involved in voicing their thoughts and were given the opportunity to ask questions, which will be appreciated.

If you would like help with organizing a process for creating a culture that actually advocates for change, let’s talk.

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