Change is a constant element that an organization has to face during its growth process. When faced with the inevitable decision to embrace change, many companies adopt it with a lot of reservations as change possesses an immense potential forcausing instability in the organization, and hence can adversely affect performance levels. No matter how well managed a change process is, it still takes time as people adjust to new techniques of undertaking things which may be radically different from the norm. The change process calls for peopleto work diligently through the emotional stages of transition. Emotion refers to experience or response that alter an individuals internal cognitive state and they are generally classified and analyzed in terms of their negative or positive characters (Fugate and Kinicki, 2008). Change, on the other hand, refers to something or a situation becoming different in some particular way without permanently losing its former essence, and this definition varies according to different people.
There are seven common emotions associated with change and these include; anger, fear, enthusiasm, grief, confusion, loneliness, sadness, and numbness. People react differently to the thought of accommodating new information whether neutral, positive or negative. In most cases, individual perceptions are influenced by their past experiences and character. Reactions are then shaped by the selected background influences. In the process of understanding the behaviors of change, we need to ask questions of engagement such as what attracts us to somethings? What makes us repel something? What makes us want to know more about an issue?
To understand change management we need to dwell on the concept of emotions and the role they play in organizational behavior.
The photo above shows a young man who was so settled in his work (probably witchcraft) and all over a sudden change appears and it is in that moment, that he cannot even defend himself because the ugly claws are already in his area of operation. The picture clearly captures the emotion of change that includes fear, disillusionment and confusion hence the reason for its selection. The young man has to deal with the evil claws that he probably called on but didnt expect to appear.
Change is the only constant thing in the world. Moreover, it is only by embracing change that a business can remain relevant and competitive. However, as discussed above, change or transition brings out the fear of unknown whereby most people react with a considerable level of distrust and anxiety.
Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) noted that the Fisher model process of transition explained how people respond to change. Fisher identified eight phases that people follow in progression through a change process. These stages were identified as anxiety and denial, contentment, fright, threat, guilt and disenchantment, depression and Aggression, gradual reception, and moving forward. According to Kreitner and Kinicki (2007), theories of organizational change came from the work of Kurt Lewin, who defined the process of change management in 3 steps.
Fig 1. Kurt Lewin change model process
The first stage is unfreezing whereby the organization moves people from what they are used to doing while striving to reduce the forces that want to maintain the status quo. Citing the painting above as an example, the man is used to engaging the forces of darkness without really coming face to face with one. The second stage changing is about fostering new behaviors, values, and attitudes and trying to reduce the level of confusion that will take place. The young man has to come to terms with the devil like claws that he probably called upon by himself. The last and final stage is refreeze, this is where the changes have to be firmed up and adapted as normal behavior for the organization, because if not done the organization may revert to its old ways, for example, make it a routine that the young man calls upon evil spirits and be at a position to make it a routine to interrect with it and engaging it in a manner that he deems fit. (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2007).
In organizational research, organizational change has been a prominent feature with the revelation that it can be triggered by either internal or external forces and occurs in different types.Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) define organizational culture as the shared beliefs, values and norms that influence the employees on how they perform their daily tasks. It is the personality of an organization. Organizational culture looks at the way that people in an organization perform tasks in a manner that is generally accepted by the people of that organization. It forms the public image of the organization; it influences performance; directs the organization and helps attract competent external stakeholders and retain motivated staff (Cunliffe, 2008). Buchanan and Huczynski (2013) noted that the Fisher model process of transition explained how people respond to change. Fisher identified eight phases that people go through in sequence through a change process.
Transition brings out the fear of the unknown, which is often received with a level of distrust and anxiety for most people (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2013). Strategic change tends to be radical in organizational design and functioning in order to cope with unpredictable changes in the wider environment (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). In essence, change management is trying to manage this transition from the old ways to the new ones as smoothly as possible in order to avoid causing major disruptions.
The biggest challenge in change management is managing the above-discussed emotions of change. It is easy to transform the physical structures and established policies of an organization, but it is difficult to push employees out of the comfort zones created by their accustomed habits and inculcate new paradigms in their normal routines. Failure to create a smooth transition process results to striking, disorientation, stress and low productivity. These are among the salient factors that contribute towards making the work of the human resource managers very challenging during the change process.
A smooth transition can be achieved by ending theuncertainty, providing justification, facilitating transformation and owning the change process. First, the best approach to managing the emotions of change is to reveal clearly what the change is all about by providing guidance on what the employees need to do differently by ensuring an effective two-way communication by leadership to mentor the employees and help them cope with the change process. Second, convincing the employees why change is necessary or the underlying benefits for them and the organization is the best way to make employees accept change in their heart. Third, by allowing employees to take ownership of the change process by considering their suggestions and putting them in charge of various components of the change process. This increases their motivation and commitment and eliminates their emotional detachment from the whole change process, and facilitates shedding of their rooted values for new ones. Lastly, those in leadership position need to tell employees what is it exactly that they need to do differently by providing the facilities to do so and offer adequate training to develop the required competencies. For example, most employees suffer from stress resulting from the uncertainty of change. Management can provide employees with stress management programs.
Cunliffe, A. L. (2008). Organization theory. London, UK: Sage Pub
Fugate, M., &Kinicki, A. J. (2008). A dispositional approach to employability: Development of a measure and test of implications for employee reactions to organizational change.Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81(3), 503-527. doi:10.1348/096317907X241579
Huczynski, A., & Buchanan, D. A. (2013). Organizational behaviour.
Kreitner, R., &Kinicki, A. (2007). Organizational behavior. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Myers, P., Hulks, S., & Wiggins, L. (2012). Organizational change: Perspectives on theory and practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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