Change: a cause of stress
James looks at his team. He has just told them that they are going to be implementing a new IT system in the department. Phiwa is happy “I like change”. Miriam glares at him, obviously she isn’t happy. Thabo is on his cell phone, doesn’t even seem to have heard! James thinks about all the literature that he has read about change – nothing seems to be useful in this situation. How does following a change management process help? He feels frustrated. Perhaps he should call Thandi.
Thandi listens carefully and then helps James to think it through. Yes, change is part of our lives today, but we all react differently. Phiwa will embrace the change and could possibly assist the others. Miriam does not like change and is prepared to show it. This gives Jame the opportunity to engage with her, to hear her concerns and fears. Thandi reminds James to be conscious that Miriam may need more time to adjust and it could be helpful to allow her to bring some of her old ways of working with her, to enable her to transition slowly. These old ways can be phased out later. This will reduce her stress and help her to become supportive of the initiative.
Thabo, not even paying attention is also a way of communication. He does not want to know about it. He does not see how it affects him, so he will keep on doing what he is doing and ignore everything else. In fact, it is Thabo that is James’ biggest challenge. When asked, Thabo says “yes, I am on board, it will be good” and when pushed further he mutters “what ever..” and shrugs. But, he continues to work in the old way, not even trying to embrace the new technology. As a manager, James wants to insist that Thabo go for training and start using the new system by the end of the month. After all, James is the manager and responsible for this department.
“Slow down” says Thandi, putting up her hand. “Is there another way”? she asks James. “What do you think is bothering Thabo? Have you asked him? Do you know if he simply does not see the benefits of the new system, sees it as another initiative that will blow over eventually? Is he overwhelmed with the many changes, or is he dealing with some other major stress in his life at the moment”?
James nods. He does not know the answers to these questions. Thandi smiles “the answer is always the same” she says. “You need to know your people, speak to them and most important listen!” James laughs and as he leaves her office, his head full of ideas, Thandi adds “and James, don’t tell them what to think, do or feel. Remember they are people, you need to honour them first by listening, and then you can work with where they are at, and bring them on board”. “Thanks for the reminder Thandi” says James as he walks away.