Managing Smart: Helping Employees Deal With Change

Thursday, October 21, 2021

To be an innovator and one of the nation’s leading community colleges, Valencia College has always had its fair share of change. And now with the pandemic, new leadership, the reorganization of some departments and many other changes taking place, some employees may be feeling like they are on change overload.

Here are some tips for supervisors to help yourself and your team members deal with change:

Show empathy. Try to understand your employees’ emotions that they may be experiencing at each phase of change.

Explain the “why” of each change. Before anxiety begins, explain why the College must change, why the change is happening now and how the changes will improve the organization. Also, discuss the pros and cons of the change with your team, so you can uncover why some employees may resist the change.

Keep employees updated. Communicate with your team during the transition and clearly define what is expected of employees, for example, if employees’ roles are changing, clearly define what’s involved in the new role. Hold consistent team meetings during this time to provide regular updates.

Understand that you won’t have all of the answers. Focus on what you do know and be candid about what you don’t. In this Harvard Business Review article, “Don’t Just Tell Employees Organizational Changes Are Coming — Explain Why,” Weber Employee Engagement and Change Management Manager Morgan Galbraith recommends “to let employees know you are committed to communicating openly and transparently, and will follow-up as soon as you know more.”

Encourage participation. Valencia has many collaborative environments and communication forums, such as our Ask Kathleen sessions, where employees can express their opinions and ask questions. Please encourage your employees to participate in these opportunities.

Fix what you can. In the Inc. article, “5 Powerful Ways to Help Your Employees Cope With Change,” best-selling author Peter Economy suggests that after hearing your team’s concerns, fix the things that you have control over.

“A reassuring word or guidance from management can have a profoundly positive impact on employees in times of uncertainty,” he explains. “If you find the problems caused by change are beyond your scope, avoid promising your employees things you cannot deliver or have no business promising them in the first place.”

Share positivity with others. Vice President of Institutional Planning and Development and Chief of Staff Amy Bosley, recommends in this article, “Practical Advice for Supervisors: How Can I Help My Employees Deal With Change?” to encourage employees to see the positive in even the most challenging times.

“Being positive is not always easy,” Amy says. “Moods can be contagious, so strive to make every day a joyful experience. Have open discussions to acknowledge that change brings uncertainty, but ultimately makes us better.”

Amy adds, “In higher ed, we seek to continuously improve all that we do. This practice of looking for improvement does not have to mean always focusing on what is negative. We need to balance conversations with each other and recognize while not everything is perfect, it may still be very good.”

For additional information, read Director of Organizational Design and Development Katie Tagye’s article on Managing Yourself and Leading Others Through Ambiguity.

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