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The Emotional Impact of Change at Work

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

By Lee Higgins, Founder

Change is an inevitable part of any organisation, but it can have a significant impact on the employees' emotional wellbeing. Understanding this impact is crucial for leaders tasked with introducing change to the workplace. In this article, we will delve into how changes at work can impact emotions, what emotions employees may experience, and how managers can support their employees through change. Fear and Anxiety - Fear is a common emotion when employees are faced with changes that affect their job security, responsibilities, or relationships with colleagues. Anxiety may also arise from a lack of understanding or communication from the management about the change. Employees may fear that they won't be able to adapt to the new situation and may lead to increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and higher staff turnover. Therefore, managers need to communicate effectively with their teams, providing enough detail about the change, its rationale, and how it will affect employees.

Frustration and Anger - If employees perceive change as unfair, they may feel frustrated and angry. For instance, if a new policy or a regulation is implemented without adequate consultation or feedback, employees might feel disempowered and resentful. Therefore, it's essential for managers to involve and engage employees in the change process. Involvement leads to better understanding and support, and gives employees a sense of ownership and responsibility which ultimately enhances their emotional wellbeing.

Uncertainty and Confusion - Change can be unsettling and create ambiguity, leading to uncertainty and confusion. It's crucial for managers to provide clarity on roles, responsibilities, and expectations around the change. Employees need to have a clear understanding of how the new changes will affect their day-to-day tasks and how long it may last. This will give employees a sense of direction and help alleviate unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Loss -Change can lead to a sense of loss, especially when it involves the loss or reduction of job titles, departments, or colleagues. This can result in employees experiencing emotions, such as sadness, grief, and even depression. Managers should acknowledge and empathise with their team's sense of loss, which will ultimately help employees cope better with change. Additionally, managers can offer training or support programs that may boost employee skills and create new opportunities.

Excitement and Hope - Although change can be unsettling, it can also bring excitement and hope. A new project or initiative can boost employee morale and lead to growth and development opportunities. Therefore, managers should encourage their teams to embrace change positively, recognise and celebrate successes and milestones, and create a culture of risk-taking where employees feel safe to experiment, innovate and grow.

Final thoughts

Understanding how change impacts employees' emotions is vital for managers seeking to implement change successfully. Effective communication, involving and engaging employees, providing clarity, and acknowledging their emotions are all crucial to managing change well. Ultimately, change can bring exciting opportunities for growth and development, but this must also be done in a responsible manner that supports employees' emotional wellbeing. By openly communicating and engaging employees, managers can create a positive culture of growth and development that fosters employees' resilience, supports them in times of uncertainty, and drives organisational success.

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