The following exercise will give some insights into people’s immediate reactions to change. This could apply to you or your teams’ reactions:

1. Start by writing a list of at least ten things that are important to you about your job and what you enjoy about it

This will help you elicit your “psychological contract at work” (ie, those things that matter to you beyond the formal contract). People will have their own list, even if they are not consciously aware of it, and this question helps the list to surface. Examples might include problem solving, working with the team, team spirit, getting results, completing projects, variety of work and being in control of their own time.

2. Now put your responses in order from most important through to least important

This action helps to establish your “hierarchy of criteria” (ie, which are the things that matter most).

3. Consider a scenario where a change in the organisation is going to remove something from your list. What would be your range of reactions (depending on what is disappearing)?

The action can help to explain why you and others might react to change in different ways. In addition, it can help explain why people might resist change; perhaps the reason people fear change is that they unconsciously fear losing something from their list.

When we are fully aware of our list of work-related values and needs, we can make plans to replace any items which are being removed or reduced; thereby regaining control of the scenario. When managing a team through change, take time to consider the individuals in the team and what is important to them. Indeed, it is useful to discover this information before change takes place, perhaps in one-to-one meetings and by observation. When a change is announced, do a psychological risk assessment by considering what people might lose, and hence predict how each individual may react and what he or she may need in order to be reassured.

If we consider the situation whereby, say, two team members are having problems with a department restructure, and a change to job role. They seem reluctant to take on some of the new tasks, claiming “this is not what I signed up for”. If left to fester, there is a risk of them leaving the company and hence you losing a valuable member of the team. On reflection, you realise that they no longer have as much freedom to organise their day and they have also lost a couple of colleagues (to another team) who they enjoyed working with. In addition, there is a higher level of monitoring and inspection of what they do (due to a quality control measure affecting everyone in the team).

With a view to keeping them happy and engaged, you could take a coaching approach, to utilise their “psychological contract” and help them resolve their dissatisfaction. By involving them in this problem-solving process, you are more likely to re-engage them. Areas to explore include:

  • In what other ways might they gain a sense of freedom within their job?
  • How might they enjoy working with new colleagues and is it possible to maintain collaboration and interactions with previous team members?
  • How else might they perceive the quality control measures (ie, see it as useful, enhancing quality for customers)?

By involving them in this problem-solving process, you are more likely to get them back on board.