7 emotional phases of change management and how to address them to maintain a healthy work culture

How effectively your organization manages change plays a big role in being able to maintain a healthy culture; here are some problems and how to get through them.

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Your organization's culture impacts many things, including overall performance, engagement and employee productivity, among other things. It only makes sense to do all you can to maintain a healthy culture. Uncertainty and change can throw this off balance in short order. One of the ways to offset this is to ensure your change management efforts are meeting the mark. 

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What is the role of change management in organizations?

The primary role of change management in organizations is to drive and support organizational results and outcomes, according to Prosci. This is done by engaging employees and inspiring them to adopt a new way of working. 

How change management efforts can help maintain a healthier culture

Healthier cultures are vital to overall organizational performance and managing change, especially as companies adapt strategy execution to market disruptions. Companies often struggle when trying to respond to the pace of change. There's typically a disconnect with the mix of technologies and reluctance by employees to embrace change. They see change as a negative and go through several emotional phases when trying to process change, significantly impacting overall culture.

  1. Immobilization
  2. Denial
  3. Ager
  4. Depression
  5. Negotiation
  6. Exploration
  7. Acceptance

Maintaining a healthy culture and change management have a symbiotic relationship; both play a crucial role in supporting the other. Balancing the two requires addressing the emotional phases that employees go through and their resulting behaviors; here's how. 

1. Immobilization

Engage in frequent, timely and open discussions about why change is necessary. Encourage two-way communication.

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2. Denial

Share the importance of employee support and engagement. Discuss what's not working, why you need employees to embrace change and how it will benefit them. Share information about reward systems that can be linked to change management efforts.

3. Anger

Allow employees to discuss their anger and frustration with change. Avoid negating or downplaying their feelings. Take the time to diffuse situations before anger becomes entrenched.

4. Depression

Reassure employees that they are needed and they play a vital role in the future of the business. Offer up any resources to help employees get through change successfully.

5. Negotiation

Share in clear terms with employees all negotiable aspects and those that are not. Allow employees to negotiate on what applies and ensure they feel supported and comfortable in their negotiations rather than judged. 

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6. Exploration

Continue to provide employees with support and guidance. Encourage them to continue making improvements and progress toward change efforts. Let them know their contributions are valued.

7. Acceptance

Share insight with employees about their performance and metrics that contributed toward successful change management. Provide recognition and reward systems when and where applicable. This will make your next change management initiative much easier. 

Leadership and employee attitudes and views are directly linked with the type of culture a company maintains. But leaders can't expect to demand or enforce employee compliance successfully. Companies can improve change management during uncertainty by helping their employees better understand why change management is critical and how their roles can be instrumental in maintaining a healthier culture. 

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By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...