Reducing Change Fatigue

It feels like every day I speak with leaders, the conversation starts with some meaningful change that is happening in their organization. Culture, right-sizing, restructuring, technology, workplace flexibility, global expansion, acquisitions, innovation, and onboarding new staff – The list continues on. Not surprisingly, one of the many disruptors I hear from employees is that priorities are unclear, they are always changing, and there is little clarity on what is most important.

The speed of change in most organizations is moving at a pace that is causing change fatigue in the average leader and employee. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review found that employees are losing patience with all the change initiatives. The average employee is experiencing 10 or more organizational changes annually, and they feel like they are in a spin cycle in the company washing machine.

One of the attributes of agile leaders is Change Resiliency. Change is as much a part of life as breathing itself, and leaders and organizations have had plenty of experience and awareness on the subject. Why then are they not better prepared to lead change and help others through the transition process? Change as a constant can be a challenging reality for both leaders and employees to cope with and work through.

Change fatigue leads to stress. Chronic workplace stress accounts for more than $300 billion in loss annually including turnover, absenteeism, lost productivity, customer dissatisfaction and medical/insurance costs (The American Institute of Stress). This means organizations and their leaders cannot ignore change fatigue if they wish to sustain business results.

Leaders need to become more intentional with how they address change in the workplace. Fatigue begins when people start to feel there are too many changes happening at the same time. The result is poor communication, not allowing enough time for people to adjust or learn about what change is impacting them, and no clear message on what the top priorities are and what is no longer a priority. 

What is Getting in The Way?

William Bridges’ research on change transitions emphasizes the emotional and psychological element at the forefront when leading through change. Everyone, including the leader, will go through the phases of Endings, Neutral Zone, and Beginnings. The key for leaders is to know that everyone goes through transition at their own pace, and you must meet each person where they are to help them with their personal transition. This includes a number of organizational behaviors including communication, flexibility and making connections.

Intentional Communication: When team members do not have the information they need, anxiety, exhaustion and skepticism start to set in. Remember, the human brain works on narratives and the experiences people have shape their belief and drive behaviors. Leaders must be more effective at communicating goals and expectations. Be clear on both what is changing and what work can stop. This builds trust from team members. Gartner studies have revealed that when there is an elevated level of trust, people have greater than twice the capacity to absorb change than those with low trust. 

Increasing Flexibility: Study after study is acknowledging that productivity increases when team members feel control and flexibility in how they manage their workload. Studies by Gallup and Bersin Associates have found that expanded demands for change with limited opportunity for control can result in physical, psychological, and emotional fatigue and stress. People who have more control of their work schedules, location and priorities show increased levels of productivity. This change in cultural influence also impacts the employment brand of the company leading to increased candidate attraction, improved retention, and increased commitment by team members.

Making Connections: This behavior begins with creating a psychologically safe environment where team members are comfortable discussing challenges, performance, and tricky situations. Leaders need to make more connections with members of their team and other colleagues. This will aid in effective communication and create a foundation of empathy and humility, which are core elements to effective change transition. Take the time to leverage “Whole Body Listening” and integrate “8 Seconds of Silence” into your communication approach. This genuine curiosity will promote transparent communication and increase the likelihood others will transition through change faster.

Enabling Leaders to Anchor Change Resiliency 

Change is constant, but it does not need to be overwhelming. Leaders need to get better at planning for change and realigning priorities to reflect what is most important. Leaders need to shift from the high-energy and speed mindset to a growth-mindset that focuses forward on a pace the organization and its people can handle. This starts with an honest assessment of what changes are necessary and how they impact the organization and the team.

People leaders need to enhance their skills or get coaching when it comes to leading others through change transitions. Organizations must develop the capabilities of leaders so they can take action to address change fatigue while also anchoring a foundation of resiliency around change with themselves and their team members. Providing your leaders with the tools, resources, confidence, and framework for change transitions will help them navigate the challenges that come with shift priorities.

How We Can Help

LAK Group helps organizations not only lead through change, but also, we develop the capabilities of leaders and organizations to become more change resilient by leading their people through the transitions that come with change. We enable leaders to activate the psychological elements of change in both them and their team.

Contact us for more information on how LAK Group can help your organization become more change resilient. You can also purchase our book, Leadership on Purpose to learn about all six attributes of agile leaders.