Change is inevitable – more so in these times, when real-time communication is the new standard, and the transfer of knowledge and information are expected to be transparent and detailed.
As a manager, there will be times when decisions weigh heavier, as resistance from colleagues emerge.
There will also be times when change is not at all favourable and the team’s confidence and morale are shaken. This could be detrimental to advancing the business and future plans.
Change – whether it is in the form of innovation or improvisation – is fundamental to the growth and progression of business, and ultimately every individual involved in the process. It could be a delicate process and many managers find it hard to handle with care.
With Gen-Ys taking over the workforce, mid-level managers often find themselves stuck – at times battling – between senior management insistence and ground level resistance and they are often left to “manage the situation” with very little guidance.
This might interest you: How Do You Change ‘Inside Out’?
Here’s what managers can do to keep their teams from falling apart with every change that comes along the way.
Step 1: Have the big picture in mind
That big picture comes with prioritising stakeholders and objectives.
Depending on your industry or the nature of business, I often find it best to work my way down starting from health and potentials for business growth before moving into team morale and changes to the organisation’s structure.
Mapping out everyone’s role or job scope changes, if any, is also good for you as a manager, to better understand the subsequent processes.
Think about how it could affect work-life balance for your staff, which seems to be priority for most Gen-Ys.
Once you have reasoned out with yourself that this decision is the best, after weighing the pros and cons, put yourself in their shoes. Your goal here is to first believe that this will bring about the best outcome for the big picture.
There is no point in enforcing a decision that you do not believe in.
If this decision came from top down and you don’t think it is the best solution to balance expectations between superiors and subordinates, do not hesitate to bring it up with your superiors, to see if any aspect of the change could be postponed or altered without jeopardising the intended results.
If your team senses a tinge of resistance from you, their resistance will only be strengthened, making your job even tougher.
Step 2: Structure your explanation for effective communication
If need be, illustrate. Depending on what the change demands of everyone, try choosing the right words and rehearsing the lines in your head, in order to avoid any awkwardness or potential backlash.
If possible, anticipate all possible and tricky questions and get them answered in your head before your big announcement.
In my case, switching weekends to workdays was a big shock to my team. I started by explaining that everyone was crucial to the operation of the business and it was important to have a few eyes and ears during the weekends.
I first laid down the problems we faced over the months with data to back me up, i.e. lower customer satisfaction rating, urgent yet unresponsive e-mails, and how this has affected the business and our reputation.
I kept to the seven-minute rule when disclosing the final verdict and solution to our problems.
I brought up all the questions that I anticipated and answered them all before opening up the floor to more questions and this helped ease the tension. The ultimate announcement on restructuring and rotating work days came right at the end.
There were some form of resistance and it took time for everyone to process the information. In instances as such, it is important to insist that everyone save their questions until you are done with your explanation.
Always keep in mind that you do not want to explain ahead of time and jumble up your thoughts.
Step 3: Encourage questions from the floor
Keep checking for the next 10 to 30 minutes (depending on how big your team is), to see if anyone has any questions at all.
If you sense that some are not opening up or are afraid to speak up, meet them privately to hear them out. Let them know that you genuinely care and that you value their opinion before a decision is made.
As managers, our biggest fear is to “accidentally” lose loyal and good workers in the process of change management.
Sadly, many employees leave good companies due to problems that could have been rectified. The onus, then lies with mid-level managers, who should be sensitive to both superiors and subordinates, to balance the situation in the best way possible.
Think about it. If you are a treasured employee – your superior would want to hear your honest opinions instead of risking your loss of confidence in him or her.
Step 4: Reiterate your message
After you have ironed out all questions and doubts, do not forget to put everything in black-and-white.
This is to solidify the change or any decisions made at the announcement and keep everyone in check so that everyone is on the same page. This is important because when there is resistance, people tend to hear only what they want to hear.
This way, you can ensure that everything that was communicated during your big announcement is reiterated for everyone’s knowledge.
In this written announcement – whether it is an e-mail or a memo – you can also discuss the process that will be in place to help with the shift around. This will give a clearer picture and for you as a manager, a good understanding to their level of acceptance.
Step 5: Lead by example
The greatest kings and generals in the world have one thing in common – they will not ask everyone to do what they will not do themselves.
It is important to lead by example, whether to be the first to work on a weekend or trying out new processes to find out the “pain” behind every new paper work.
As both senior and mid-level managers, we cannot afford to be like those bosses in the past, managing the business remotely from the comfort of his or her office, and in the end lose respect from various stakeholders.
See also: Leading Change And The Future Of Work
Putting it together
There may be employees who are incapable of change and will choose to leave. Do not be discouraged.
As long as you know very well that this is the best outcome for the big picture and the majority is unaffected, know that it is impossible to please everyone. No king has met no opposition; no general has met no enemies.
Only by embracing change that businesses and people grow, which is what makes a learning curve – curved.
Without effecting change or very little improvisations, companies like Nokia lose out in competition and ultimately, employees lose their job market value on the account that their breadth of knowledge has stayed stagnant for years.
For the sake of the company you are attached to, your personal growth, and your mentees’ – This is a great responsibility to shoulder and it is important to do it right.