Change is inevitable both personally and in the workplace and is often stressful. To be effective in managing change in the workplace, upper management and leaders need to be aware of and be sensitive to the resistance to change. They also need to be strong in stress management that requires flexibility.
What are the underlying issues that make change such a challenge?
- Change is tiring.
- Change requires individuals to move from cognitive ease to cognitive strain.
- Change presents something new and different and most people have a fear of the new and the unknown.
- Individuals do not like leaving their comfort zone
- There is an ignorance of the advantages of the change.
Most of these are inter-related and can be addressed when understanding cognitive ease and cognitive strain. What are cognitive ease and cognitive strain?
Cognitive ease is when we have learned something and repeated the process enough that the task no longer requires effort. For example, when we learned to tie our shoes, we had to concentrate on each step in order to successfully tie our shoes, i.e., our thinking was slowed down. This is cognitive strain. After repeating this task often enough, we went from having to focus on each step of being able to tie our shoes without having to think about it. After enough repetition, we could tie our shoes while having a conversation with someone. We went from cognitive strain to cognitive ease, fast thinking.
Cognitive strain is tiring and basically, we are lazy by nature. In the workplace, the focus is on getting the job done and if a new system is implemented, we have to slow down, concentrate and the perceived threat is we will not get our job done in the amount of time that we became accustomed to accomplishing it. The advantages of the change need to be communicated to break down the resistance to change.
Another issue to contemplate is that we have become a culture that reinforces cognitive ease. If we want to look up a definition of a word, for example, we turn to our computers, type in the word and even if we are unsure of the correct spelling, the computer can fill in the blanks for us. Before this advanced technology, we had to get up, find the dictionary, look up the word, sometimes having to break the word down into syllables in order to spell it correctly to find it in the hundreds of words and pages that comprised this great book. At one time, we were conditioned to press on in a task that required slow thinking. Something to consider, is part of the resistance to change a product of our enhanced technology? In my example, we can now look up a word and its definition in less than a minute. Technology has replaced cognitive strain and given us solutions at lightening speed.
Resistance to change is not a negative stance. In order for the change to be embraced and have a smooth transition, the resistance needs to be addressed.
What are the tools an organization can adopt for change management?
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., is a select Columnist & Featured Contributor for BIZCATALYST 360° and a Member of the Forbes Coaches Council (comprised of Top coaches offering insights on leadership development & careers). Prior to executive coaching and leadership development, Melinda has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for almost 20 years. She leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness. Owner and founder of Success Starts with You, is based upon the premise that you are already successful. Increasing self-awareness to increase emotional intelligence and unlocking blind spots are paramount to continued success. Melinda uses assessments to help bring more awareness. Whether you are a leader or manager in transition, need a thought partner, or need to improve your professional presence, Melinda has developed unique and innovative techniques from her background to help you reach higher heights. Melinda received her Ph.D. in Jungian Psychology from Saybrook University and her Masters in Psychology from Pacifica University. Melinda has worked as a consultant with executives and businesses for over 20 years. As a result of her experience and studies, she has developed a unique craft to fine-tune leadership development for peak performance. She lives in Colorado with her big, beautiful dog, Stryder. Contact – LinkedIn – Twitter
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