Four Clues You or Your Staff are Having Problems with Change.

1.  Gossip Increases.

2.  Productivity Decreases

3.  Increase in Team Conflict

4.  Old Resentments Resurface

Let’s talk about Gossip first, shall we?  Whenever I get called in to help an organization with gossip challenges, one of the first questions I ask is “What are the staff afraid of or having a hard time with?”  Gossip is usually a reaction to a problem they are having.  It’s a symptom of a different problem, the thing that’s beneath the surface.  Realize that change can trigger an increase in gossip.  Staff may not feel heard, important or valued and “tada”, gossip increases!

A decrease of productivity may occur because people are concerned about how this change will affect them.  They may be worrying internally or talking with others in the lunch room.  Some staff may not cooperate with the changes you want.  This may happen when you’re restructuring and asking for team members to create an accurate job description.  I’ve heard of some people refusing to cooperate because they were afraid of being downsized.  

This ‘reaction’ was in spite of the intention, which was to make their job easier by having others help them with some of their duties.  Bottom line, sometimes during change your teams productivity decreases because they are emotionally distracted.

Team conflict may increase.  When an individual is having challenges with changes, they become more irritable.  You may notice their mood or their personality change.  An introvert becomes more introverted, or the other extreme, they may blurt things out.  The extrovert may turn introverted or try to stir up the pot.

Conflict may show up in the form of a “Distraction”  as well.  In these cases, small problems show up and are blown out of proportion so no-one looks at the real problem – they’re having difficulty with the change. It’s a common way of trying to cope with the stimulus.

Old resentments resurface.  It’s as if the past has come back, and you’re rehashing the same things.  This may be an attempt to distract everyone from the current problem, a way to focus on things that “aren’t working” or it may be that the current change brings the “water temperature” up.  You’ll notice this one when things arise from the past that may have mostly been resolved.  It’s the old adage that I’m cranky, and oh yea, there’s this and this and this!  And, yes I’m still cranky.

What You Can Do:  Making Change Easier

When you notice Gossip, realize that is usually a symptom of a bigger problem, in this case the change that’s occurring.  First thing to do, educate your group on what gossip is so they all have a common definition.  Then, provide them tools to deal with the challenges differently and create a structure to support the change.

Once that is established, approach the issue that’s under the surface. If it’s that people are having a hard time with the changes, talk about it. If you ignore a problem, it just increases in size!

When productivity decreases, help your staff remember the bigger picture.  This is one of the main topics in my leadership / management trainings.  Keep them focused on what they are doing, their goals, and help them not focus on the problems that are happening.  Help them keep things in perspective, and then they can unravel, and work through the challenges.

If an increase in team conflict occurs, make sure you don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the conflict.  Remember that it’s just a symptom of the change.  Use your wits to decide if it’s really that big of a problem.  Help them focus on the solutions – problem solve if you need to and remember that none of it is an emergency, unless they create it into one!

When old Resentments Resurface, remind people of the resolutions from before.  Consider asking whether this is coming up because of the change discomfort.   Give them an opportunity to reflect on why it has come up again.  Help them recalibrate and remember the resolution and do your best to not let them focus on the problem.

Remember: Dealing with change is a process and people deal with it in different ways. Do your best to stay in front of things and to not get caught up in the “drama.”

Next week, I’ll post information on how to make it easier from the start and avoid a lot of these challenges.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Figueroa