The Impact of Change Done Wrong
I was just reading about the “bloodbath” that happened this week at Staples. Given the press release that went out, and was referred to in the Fortune article, I’m guessing a lot of folks got surprised with those pink slips. And those who remain employed are most likely demoralized and shaking today.
I’m not on the inside at Staples, so I don’t know how this change was managed. But comments in that article indicate it wasn’t managed very well.
What do we know about how change impacts employees? For starters, let’s talk about people’s behavior styles related to change. We know that roughly 32% of the U.S. population doesn’t like change one bit. That’s about 1/3 of the workforce! Those are the folks we talk about as having a High S, or a high Steadiness factor. These folks need a lot of preparation to be able to successfully cope with change. Doesn’t sound like they got that in this case!
Then you add in the 13% who are High C’s and are all about Compliance. They are going to worry about the impacts the change is going to make — whether they got pink slips or not. These folks do not like risk, and when such major events happen, their risk radar shoots off the chart.
That’s 45% of the workforce that needs prep time for change. They need time to absorb what it means, whether it is good for them, and to assure themselves that they are not dealing with change for change’s sake.
Then let’s consider the 38% who are High I’s (Influence). While these folks may not necessarily notice change (unless it directly impacts them), their top emotion is trust. So a sudden change like Staples made will have dramatically impacted this group and their connection to the company because they will consider that their trust has been violated.
That leaves 17% of the workforce, the High D’s (Dominance). These are your lovers of change. They may well be responsible for the lack of communication because their concern is to get it done now. They are high risk-takers and are willing to roll the dice in these (actually, most) situations.
With only 17% on board with change, good change management is essential. It requires open and transparent communication, opportunities for feedback, and giving everyone affected time to buy in.