All leaders should watch for the warning signs of trouble in the midst of change as they are easy to spot if you are paying attention. Each person affected by change should also pay attention to personal warning signs that you are having difficulty with change. It is sure a sure path to finding trouble.
Understanding the warning signs of trouble in the midst of change is critical to success. If we fail to recognize and respond to them, we will experience the consequences. In today’s business environment, helping employees to embrace change is becoming a critical factor of success. Building trust can be challenging because it requires time to develop and constant change often erodes the ability to build trust. This process is part of Communicating to Manage Change.
Some people do not easily handle change which causes additional challenges for leadership. It is important to recognize warning signs that indicate problems with building trust and embracing change. Whether you are in leadership or the one impacted by change, you should know the warning signs of trouble. They may be subtle, but indicate potential problems.
Here are some warning signs of trouble in the midst of change:
- Personal Resistance – An initial sign of trouble often starts start with a sense of personal resistance. It is the sick feeling in the pit of the stomach or some similar physical reaction when one first hears change is on the way.
- Anger – Personal resistance may be followed by anger. This is often referred to as the first step in the grief process (Anger; Denial; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance- If you find yourself in this cycle, it would be a good time to seek help.) Anger is a strong emotion with many underlying causes. It should not be left unaddressed.
- Quietness – A common reaction is quietness. It is a sign of caution and withdrawal. It is also a sign of disengagement that leads to lower buy-in and productivity when it extends over time. A further danger sign following quietness is a failure to seek understanding and ramifications of the coming change due to personal withdrawal.
- Resentment – As time passes, many people may experience resentment. Resentment always has a target in the organization. The target could be a person, or an idea. It can also lead to bitterness or passive-aggressive tendencies that erode trust. It is not always visible to the target and may be subconscious.
- Multiple Questions – If change does not make sense, some people begin asking multiple questions. This can be due to one’s desire to better understand the reasons for change or simply to reconcile inconsistencies not addressed in the explanation. The questions may take the form of gossip and speculation. This often results is alliances or coalitions organized against the change leaders or the change itself.
Each of these feelings and behaviors are warning signs of trouble and become a distraction if not actively addressed. Early intervention is critical. Awareness of a problem is the first step to addressing it. An often improper approach by leadership is the belief that, ’They will get over it.’, and, yes they may, but not without a cost.
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