How to overcome ‘change fatigue’ and create a winning working environment
Let's be honest—we’re all tired. The truth is that fatigue is a very common feeling for most of us by the time December rolls around, as we deal with a year’s worth of pressure in addition to the demands of always being available and having to respond instantly. This has blurred the lines between our work and home life, causing a tiresome imbalance.
In the workplace, our fatigue levels have been compounded by several changes that have been made since the pandemic, often implemented in haste and, thus, incorrectly.
Change is only successful if the right change system is used, and implemented with the right partners. So as a new year begins, here are ten concepts that will help individuals and organisations overcome change fatigue in the workplace, enabling them to positively and seamlessly embrace change.
1. Firstly, don’t be afraid of change
Big, or small, change is all around us—it is a part of who we are, and is necessary because there is always room for improvement. Some people love change and embrace the uncertainty, while others fear it simply because they don’t know how to deal with the dramatic, sudden alterations that threaten the status quo.
In our change management programmes, we clearly explain the changes that are being introduced to quell worry and concern. Communication is key to ensuring that everyone understands that things are under control, the change process is rational, and the emotional responses that people feel towards this change are not ignored.
2. Visualise change
Work with a small representative group to discover and visualise the result from idea to impact. People want to see the change to know what impact it will have on them. Only then will the process create greater empathy, be more transparent, and foster trust amongst employees.
3. Model change in-house
Before embarking on any changes, it is crucial to get the right people on your side – those who have the right influence to affect this change, and reinforce it through their behaviour.
Creating a shared purpose as to why you are embarking on this change journey is very important, as the motivation for change is often more important than the change itself. If you have created a shared understanding as to why change is needed, you have created the opportunity for change to happen organically.
4. Be prepared for peaks and troughs
Like with anything new, big risky changes can generate excitement at the start, but the unfamiliar territory can cause disarray and things can quickly come crashing down.
Family therapist Virginia Satir calls this the ‘Change Curve’, where usual behaviours don’t work so performance drops and people often revert to their previous habits. This can be minimised by adopting evolutionary, incremental change that reduces the dip into chaos.
5. Have strong leadership
Effective change needs resilient leaders that possess maturity, patience, and the ability to pull people together and see the change process through.
According to Dr John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and entrepreneur, having a guiding coalition—a group of individuals within an organisation who are the social leaders of the change initiatives—is essential. These early adopters bring expertise, energy, and perspective across a variety of areas, and are willing to try something new—even if it's not perfect—to create the movement of change.
6. Don’t change everything at once
There is a strong narrative across multiple organisations that changes are introduced several times a year before they reap any reward or benefit from the previous change.
If your organisation starts with a new change initiative, and before seeing it through, jumps onto another and another, it creates turmoil and uncertainty that will soon become part of the organisation's DNA.
Symptoms like having too much work, not completing tasks, and multi-tasking cause bottlenecks and dependencies. It also slows down any chance of progress, and employees begin to exhibit signs of change fatigue on both personal and professional levels.
7. Change up your belief structure
Many organisations seem to be stuck in a cycle of change without ever achieving real results, which reflects negatively on the belief systems of employees. Unsuccessful (or rather, unsupported) change means employees either believe that leaders are giving it lip service and not fully supporting the change initiative, or that there isn't real influence over managing the change from both sides.
To change behaviour, we need to first look at changing the environment by creating conditions in which the behaviour that you consider desirable will be easier and more natural than it is now. This means that for us to change the ‘culture’, we need to create new belief systems for the people in the organisation—and new belief systems are created through new experiences.
8. Welcome resistance
Resistance to change is not a bad thing. It should instead be seen as a feedback vehicle for leaders, helping them to gather information from the people that are going through the change.
I strongly believe that people matter, and relationships matter. People don’t resist change; instead, they resist being changed and having the change being forced upon them. Let’s start involving people in the change effort.
9. Establish the right feedback loops
Don’t rely on PowerPoint presentations, email, or even inspiring words painted on walls to communicate change. Instead, find ways to have face-to-face conversations with the people on the ground, and create a platform where they feel safe to express their concerns. This will help develop unity, alignment, and a shared purpose.
10. Measure it
Be deliberate about what improvement you are trying to seek, and how to measure it. Only then will you avoid unreflective knee-jerk responses. If the goal is to continually develop a fit-for-purpose capability through your change initiatives, you need to capture the correct data to learn if the process is working.
WRITTEN BY ROCHELLE ROOS
Rochelle Roos is a coach, trainer, and co-founder of We Do Change.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)