How to minimise the emotional impact of change

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emotional impact of change

Any significant change at work is going to have an effect as far as departments and individual employees are concerned. The emotional impact of change is often characterised as negative in tone – after all, if it’s positive then there’s no problem to be dealt with.

Negative emotions can stem from concerns about competence in new techniques; worries about new processes; potential salary cuts; potential redundancies and so on. A negative response to organisational change needs to be minimised as much as possible so that the business doesn’t suffer from reduced productivity, low morale and engagement and (worst case scenario) mass resignation.

The negative emotions that people might feel in the face of change at work include mistrust, fear and anger – they may manifest themselves in different ways, but their effects are ultimately the same. Being aware of them and the reasons that people might feel them in connection to the change being implemented in their organisations can be extremely helpful in nullifying their effects.

How can you minimise the impact of these negative emotions throughout and after the change process, then?


Fear occurs when an employee isn’t given prior warning, explanation and coaching about the change and its predicted effects.

Any major change that will drastically affect a workplace should be discussed in a lot of depth prior to it actually occurring – this gives employees as much information as possible about it beforehand and allows them to gain an idea of how their jobs and the workplace will change before it happens.

If the change being implemented is the work of a management team that employees trust, the resistance to it will be minimal. However, if a relatively new manager starts trying to change things, mistrust will be natural and resistance, whether conscious or unconscious, becomes inevitable.

The natural solution, therefore, is to gain buy-in from senior figures who have been with the organisation for a long time as a means of assuaging the fears and mistrust of employees and departments. Their positive attitudes will go a long way towards convincing those employees that this is the correct path for the company to take.

Some employees can become downright angry and hostile and, rather than simply disciplining or firing them, efforts should be made to find out where the issue is specifically stemming from and how it can be sorted out to the satisfaction of all parties. If the employee won’t have a reasonable discussion about it, that’s when disciplinary action should be taken.

There might be those who accept the changes and don’t actively oppose them, but are quietly depressed or demoralised about them and the way they are now expected to do their jobs. These people will start to show reduced levels of productivity and may begin to affect the morale of those around them.

These people should be given extra support from management and team leaders to try and bring their mood and engagement levels back up to where they were before the change.

If you already have high levels of employee engagement, this can also help to minimise the negative impact of change, and it’s something that businesses are now beginning to recognise and strive to improve within their organisations. If the employee has confidence in the company and is highly engaged in their work within it, they will accept change more readily.

Change is a naturally emotional time, but the amount it affects your workforce depends on how the management team handles the process and how sensitively they consider the effect that the change will have on employees.

Author: Doug Chapman
Doug Chapman is an L&D Consultant focusing on Management and Leadership at Thales Learning & Development. Doug specialises in training leadership and management capabilities, consulting with Thales L&D’s customers to help them develop and implement effective training programmes.  Doug is a regular contributor to Enhance – The Magazine for Learning and Development.

Source: Thales Learning & Development

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