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We Resist Change Even When It's Positive - Here's What We Can Do

If you've been thinking that going back to normal will be easy, it's still a change and we should manage it the same way.


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Cindy Shaw

3 years ago | 3 min read

Photo courtesy of Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo courtesy of Pixabay on Pexels.com

A glimpse of optimism is starting to appear in the headlines as vaccine programs gain traction across the globe. We are (carefully) beginning to think about what we will be doing as the restrictions lift in our community. Conversations at home and work are shifting to reflect this as well.

Relief, happiness, do we dare let ourselves go there?

Why do we need to manage such a positive change? Won’t we all just naturally reset?

As the collective tone shifts and media build the facade of a “finish line” in some countries with the removal of pandemic restrictions, it makes sense the volume of change we have endured so far is creeping in and feeling heavier than ever.

Dialogues around how we transition to different work arrangements continues. Clear camps are emerging for the pros and cons of continuing to work from home.

Now is the time to consider how we manage this process personally and professionally and figure out how to shift our mindset to complete this next stage.

There are a few things to keep in mind as we approach or continue our discussions at work:

  • Lifting restrictions is a change — even though it is a positive one, it’s another change we need to manage. With routines disrupted again, we must adapt to working with fewer restrictions, which means people will enter the change curve again.
  • Don’t be surprised if you see resistance as a result — with the high levels of fatigue we are all experiencing, and instinctual resistance will be hard to control for some. For others, fear, anxiety, and potentially distrust as we look for the new work plan to reflect our best interests and safety. There may be a reluctance to commit with so much still unknown, and some will fear that restrictions will increase again.
  • You will likely see bias in work survey results — when circulating employee surveys or holding feedback sessions with our team on WFH and going back to the office. With fatigue and stress levels still high, consider a potential bias in the results.

The above shouldn’t stop you from surveying. I hope it does the opposite and stresses the need for feedback at this point. To determine what your group bias is (if any) and the direction (positive or negative), make sure to add the following questions to your survey or feedback session:

  1. Where are people (on a scale) with their overall fatigue levels?
  2. Do they have the support they need for the change they are currently sustaining?
  3. How well do they feel they are managing the volume of change they have at the moment?
  4. Capture how they feel about the upcoming changes with restrictions easing (word choice, e.g., optimistic, excited, afraid, anxious, etc.) and allow them to choose multiple words and provide a scale.

These will give you a firm read on what is affecting people, what type of support they need, and how much capacity they have for the upcoming shift.

Suppose many are scoring high on fatigue levels and are generally pessimistic about the next few months. In that case, this sentiment is likely influencing their responses to other questions you have asked, such as WFH preferences, office attendance, etc.

Remember, instinctual resistance is typical in change — even when it’s for the positive.

You may have embarrassed or confused individuals that aren’t excited about the prospect of life returning to (shades of) normal. Others might be excited but can’t manage the irritability and lack of focus that they are experiencing due to their high level of change fatigue. Many will be ready to go and feeling impatient with the hurry-up-and-wait phase.

Having compassion for others and ourselves is critical right now.

If you are a leader in this upcoming transition, make sure you know your answers to the questions above.

You are susceptible to change fatigue, and you might find the thought of traversing another resistance cycle with your team overwhelming. Get the support you need and be clear about your expectations and others during this time.

If you are in a global team, recognize many are still living with restrictions in our communities.

Depending on where they are in the world, they may be in lock down, which can also strain the above dialogues.It’s tough to ’have your head down and pedal’ and consider easing off at the same time.

While many of us would like this next shift to be the finish line, it may not be.

We know it will be a transition point to the next phase, and based on this, we can leverage our mindset to get us there.

Remember, don’t assume people are on board and can easily transition just because it’s a positive change. Plan these transitions like you would any other change to make sure everyone makes the journey successfully.

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Cindy Shaw

Mindset + Leadership Coach | Writer | Speaker | All things transformation is my space!


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