Making the best of organisational change

There are not many organisations who are immune to change.  Many companies experiencing organisational change will have to deal with some hard decisions which affect their people.  The approach to delivering bad news to employees can be determined by the personal preference of the leader.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a psychological profiling tool which helps people understand how they take in and process information.  It demonstrates how people prefer to make decisions.  In the decision-making arena, some of us make decisions based on logical thinking. and rationale. While some of us do so based on feelings and the impact on people.  Different preferences mean that approaches to organisational change can differ depending on the personality of the leader.

The process surrounding redundancy

At a feedback session, I held a few months ago, we got to talking about redundancy.   Someone stated, “It’s no good looking at redundancy as thinking or feeling process, the process of redundancy is inherently one of logical thinking, so feeling people naturally feel uncomfortable”  I pondered this statement, because I had been through numerous organisational changes, and had never felt uncomfortable with the process.  So was my type indicator wrong?  Was I not a true feeling type?

I realised that organisational change and reductions in the numbers of staff in themselves weren’t too problematic for me.  Not because I don’t care about the people involved in the process and the impact on them.  On the contrary, I realised it wasn’t a problem for me, because I did care about the people involved.  Because I cared, I made sure I did everything I could to reduce or cushion the impact on my employees.

Now that’s not to say everyone working through organisational change has been happy with what was happening.  I am guessing there are very few of us who are threatened with potential or actual loss of their livelihood who would feel happy.  But there are ways to manage organisational change which honour the people affected.

Employee relations are key

Employee relations in the context of organisational change especially reductions in staff or hours is often thought of as a transaction between trade unions.  But there are many more pieces to the system of organisational change.  There is a process to be gone through and legislation and regulations to adhere to. However, engaging people at all levels is essential.

How to engage people when giving bad news

Here are my top tips for a manager or HR professional who may be taking an employee through any change which is going to impact adversely on their working life.

Give them the bad news straight

People have a remarkable capacity for accepting and processing bad news.   What they don’t like is not knowing, or having to guess what the true picture might be.

Be abundantly clear about the drivers for change

If the change is imperative, then you will have good and sound reasons for it.  Show that you have considered all options and that you have no choice but to go for it

Talk Adult – Adult

You are not responsible for their lives, but you have a responsibility for how you relate to them.  Do not let any fingers of blame point at you or take on board any guilt.  Likewise, treat people with dignity and respect.

Be Kind

Understand that everyone will take the news differently, and that is ok.  Make sure you have support for those who may be affected most seriously and don’t compare the different ways people react.

Let them be negative

Encourage negativity, but do it in a structured setting where you can pivot the beliefs and think about the impact of the change into a positive focus.

Encourage employees to face fears

By facing fears, people then turn their attention to solutions.  If they never face their fear, fear will be the driving force and will sap their energy.  The energy they can put into reskilling or finding alternative employment or other adjustments.

Let them talk as much as they need

Ask them how regularly they want to be updated, in what format and what will work best for them.  Such time is never wasted.  It is much better to be proactive with time, rather than let the time bomb of the rumour mill tick.

Celebrate their successes

Make them understand the vital contribution they make, the unique skill set they have at their disposal. Help them identify how to make the most of the experiences they have accumulated while working for you.  This is the most vital time to do this.  It can actually engender great hope.

This sounds time-consuming.  But honestly, it doesn’t have to be.  All you have to do is genuinely appreciate and care about your people and it will come naturally.  It is better to use the time during the organisational change productively and positively than deal with unnecessary stress and disputes.


This Post was updated in February 2019

I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

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