Change fatigue is an increasingly common problem among employees, as almost half of those surveyed in a Gartner study admit to being resistant to change in their work environment. Change fatigue can lead to lowered productivity and morale due to the feeling of being constantly overwhelmed with updates and shifts in a company’s or industry’s operations.
To reduce the impact of change on employees, managers and team leaders should attempt to minimise the amount of frequent changes by creating processes ahead-of-time that helps develop consistency. Additionally, it is important for management teams to clearly communicate any changes upfront and provide adequate support throughout the transition period.
Doing so will ensure that stakeholders are aware of upcoming changes and reassured that their skills and opinions are valued amongst the team. Moreover, as automation is changing substantially how certain tasks are performed, equipping your team with the relevant skills is paramount in aiding them maneuver through any changes effortlessly.
The ability for employees to handle change is an important factor that should not be overlooked when it comes to successfully implementing new projects and plans. While some may bring enthusiasm, creativity, and resilience to the process, others struggle more when changes are implemented. Gartner has identified two key factors that differentiate those who can quickly adapt and those who find it difficult: trust and team cohesion.
Trust is essential in any professional working environment, as employees must have confidence in each other's skills, loyalty, and commitment towards shared goals. When trust exists between colleagues and leaders within any organisation, this helps to build relationships of mutual respect; enabling individuals to listen more closely to each others' needs.
Team cohesion plays a big role in how change is accepted by staff; when teams are able to successfully bring their ideas together with trust-based collaboration, their combined efforts become heightened which results in improved performance overall. Achieving this means taking the time to understand the different perspectives within the team so that everyone’s viewpoint matters - this will lead employees towards realizing why change is necessary in order to move forward.
Trust also helps build strong employee/employer relationships and promotes efficiency and collaboration. Trust between employers and employees must be established for the workplace to be productive and engaging. Trust implies that the employer has the employee’s interests in mind, has considered the impact any changes they make will have, says what they mean and follows through on their promises.
Without trust, an employee's capacity for change is drastically reduced; change can feel overwhelming and uncertain if employees do not have faith that their best interests are being taken into account by leadership, management or HR personnel. If these individuals fail to demonstrate clear accountability or simply disregard the needs of those they manage, trust quickly dissipates and growth stagnates.
Leaders need to consistently communicate with their teams to nurture trust until it develops into a solid foundation on which an effective working relationship between employer and employee can be built on.
Team cohesion is the idea that team members have a strong sense of belonging and connection to one another, as well as commitment and accountability toward a collective goal. Without this shared sense of team unity, it can impair the ability of a group to reach their desired outcomes. When a team experiences disruptive change, it can be difficult for them to make progress on projects or get back on track with goals without first rebuilding and establishing an effective system of cooperation.
Gartner's research outlines that teams with high levels of cohesion can see an increase in change capacity of up to 1.8x more than what they previously had. To start building this strong sense of cohesion from day one, managers should direct their team through training, for example through a series of exercises offered in the Atlassian Team Playbook.
Those who already have established teams are encouraged to take advantage of these exercises as well when changes occur within the group to help guide them toward productivity instead of disruption. It's important as a manager that you support your team both during times of effectiveness and turbulence so that they are able to reach their highest potential despite any turbulence ahead.
Communicating early and continuously is key when introducing changes in the workplace. Employers need to be thoughtful about when they start bringing employees into the change journey, as it will greatly reduce the impact on individuals. For example, Atlassian announced their shift to Team Anywhere early on, even before key decisions had been made. This gave employees ample time to mentally prepare for any changes ahead and also allowed them a chance to provide feedback or get involved before any specific decisions were set in stone.
Timing can often make or break a successful change management effort. Too soon can cause confusion and panic since there's not enough information available, while too late can lead to employee mistrust if they feel like they've been left out of the decision-making process. It's important for companies to have an effective open-source change management plan that allows both employers and employees alike to allow an adequate window for communication throughout the process. Share goals up front, keep everyone informed as you move through your decision-making process, provide opportunities for feedback at various stages during the transition, and make sure everyone affected has access to support along the way.
What actually causes change fatigue and how to overcome it
Organisational change has been a constant challenge for many organisations, especially during pre-Covid times. Many employees felt overwhelmed by too many organisational changes happening in a row; this phenomenon is referred to as “change fatigue”. With Covid hitting, life, business and work got turned upside down in an instant. It was incredibly difficult for managers to keep up with the pace of the changing dynamics.
It is essential for managers to take steps to manage their team's exhaustion due to change overload, such as communicating clearly and frequently about upcoming changes and the reasons for them. Managers should also be prepared to support their teams with discussion around how they can embrace change rather than feeling defeated by it.
Regular team check-ins should be conducted to gauge employee feelings and adjustments can made based on findings from these conversations. Managers must remember that when there is too much information coming too fast and with no end in sight - it can cause long term irreparable exhaustion unless taken seriously.
Navigating change can be unsettling, especially in times of uncertainty. Too often, when faced with anxiety-inducing changes, we have an urge to quickly jump into action-mode and do something—even if it's not the right thing. Psychologists refer to this as “anxious fixing”: addressing symptoms of anxiety without truly getting to the root cause. This is an understandable but ultimately unhelpful tendency that will exhaust you without solving any underlying issues or helping those around you.
Take the example of a team which is changing its return-to-office plan due to current events. A leader might react by sending a flurry of emails with new timelines and details, hoping to drum up excitement in order to ease the stress caused by change. However, it's important for leaders to pause and acknowledge the emotional toll taken on their people before implementing any new policies or procedures. Taking time to share personal stories and show empathy instead of simply giving directives can make a world of difference in terms of how people respond to and process change.
In today's uncertain world, creating a plan can be an invaluable tool for navigating life's complexities and helping us to stay focused and on track. By creating a plan, we are able to set goals and work toward achieving them with clarity of vision and purpose. A plan can also help us anticipate the potential challenges and disruptions that one might encounter, allowing us to quickly adapt if needed. For instance, when faced with a known challenge like filling out a quarterly report it can be easy to simply repeat the same process as before, but without a plan in place there is more uncertainty about how best to approach it.
Knowing this it is important to develop a plan which leaves enough maneuvering space to allow for any deviation that may occur along the way. Keeping our end goal in mind yet remaining flexible in our approach gives us the best chance of success whatever direction life takes us. This way we are better prepared for unexpected scenarios, able to alter our plans as needed while still working towards our desired outcome. Instead of getting overwhelmed by uncertainty we will have already anticipated those moments and be ready to make decisions that lead us toward progress even when things do not go as expected.
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