How to manage stress when change is imminent?

Change can cause Stress. Stress can lead to a big bag of trouble. So what can we do about either or both?

When I left the security of a position with added benefits… you know, a decent wage, car, pension etc, I embraced change but didn’t realise how stress would impact on me as a result of this!

The consequent outcome of change, especially if not of our own making, often leads to stress. If we’re not working to our full potential, productivity declines, followed by diminishing profits. This then usually means cut-backs and here we go again! And this is just from an accountant’s perspective. What about the morale in the workforce or the sickness absence record?

It’s no surprise that most will attempt to reject change. After all, it’s the fear of losing something, resisting because we simply don’t want it while not knowing how to deal with it!

Therein starts the belief that if we resist it enough, it will simply go away. Alas, this rarely happens. So begins the transition curve of change which follows a path of Shock – Denial – Sense of incompetence – Acceptance – Experimentation – Understanding – Integration. The first is where management is the most critical.

Some key questions to help us understand/be understood, thereby giving the information that will relieve the development of stress include:

  • What fear will be raised?
  • What internal/external culture will feed this fear?
  • Are people afraid to raise their fears/concerns?
  • How will this fear affect the business through its service or delivery?
  • What will be the outcome if people can’t raise their concerns?

As a leader, these questions need to be asked. Having a clearly defined plan concerning how the change is to be communicated, and I don’t mean just ping everyone an email!, to incorporate the aforementioned answering what you foresee as being primary areas of concern, will help people to understand that change is not to be feared but embraced due to its benefits to them!

‘Communication’ is critical in reducing stress. Once you’ve established answers to the earlier questions, you can incorporate this into your announcements.

Clear, concise and accurate information relaying what are the perceived likely fears and how this will be addressed, the timeframe, people’s responsibilities and buddying systems all aimed with the intention of expressing the purpose, benefits and need of the business that they will engage in. This will all give the individuals a sense of understanding and, more importantly, a sense of purpose that they are critical to the success of this change.

This information assists effective change-management, stabilising the environment without allowing assumptions that may well poison a tranquil working atmosphere!

Without clear communication, people will feel threatened. Look to endorse some of the following to assist with a ‘reduced’ stressful environment (we don’t like change so there will always be an element of stress, let’s just try and bring it to a minimum so all can enjoy the workplace):

  • Provide assistance. Not everyone will pick up change at the same speed
  • Offer a variety of support not just technical but coaching, counselling, leadership and interpersonal skill training
  • Be aware of how you communicate this change. Electronic formats such as email should be used to back-up or enhance face-to-face meetings/seminars.
  • Frequently relay updates emphasising the positives and commenting on areas that need improving
  • Consider holistic means to alleviate stress such as providing training on relaxation techniques, nutrition, self-awareness, time-management and confidence/self-awareness development.

Stress affects us all differently. As an outgoing person, my signal is when I go quiet, hiding myself away! Other signs people show are loss of focus or attention, fatigue, tension of muscles and work may be affected through shortcuts being taken or lack of accuracy/focus. Know your own signs as well as those around you.

Without considering the human element of change, all too often I have seen change take much longer than anticipated as no one has considered the fact it is people we are dealing with and not machines!

Coaching to success specialise in change-management offering workshops for teams or management teams that will either be subjected to change or are about to introduce it. Should this be an area that you believe will help your organisation, contact Neil directly on 07761 187238 or email to have a complementary and confidential discussion or meeting to see how we can help you manage change effectively and efficiently thus reducing costs through engaging the team quicker and more productively through reducing the possibility of stress and the negatives that can bring.