“We need to keep these upcoming changes to the structure under wraps for now. We don’t want to scare or alarm anyone. Once we’ve got the new plans all figured out, we will share it with the whole company all at once. That way, no one will panic.” –CEO of a small company to his management team
“What’s happening? Do you think they are going to keep everyone or will some of us lose our jobs? I just bought a house…will I be able to pay my mortgage? I don’t understand what direction we are going in. Why haven’t they asked us for input?” –Employees of said company, around the water cooler, in the hallways, and behind closed doors
Many experts in the field of change management have agreed for years. The best way to go about organizational change is to do so with as much transparency as possible, and to gather input and ideas from the employees. The more people feel as though they are at least being heard, the more able they will be to embrace the changes coming, even if they don’t agree with all of the final decisions.
So why do some company leaders continue to go about organizational change like it’s a secret they must guard closely until it has been perfected?
But what is there to fear? If the plan isn’t perfect (and it’s not), sharing it with those most affected by the changes just might generate some new ideas. At the very least, giving employees the chance to understand what’s being proposed and react to it will help ultimately create buy-in, or prompt changes which may be best for everyone, such as those most unhappy leaving the organization.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m faced with changing circumstances over which I have little to no control, I’d rather know what’s coming. Even if I completely disagree with the changes, having the chance to voice my opinion, give ideas, and ultimately weigh whether or not I want to continue with the company and accept the changes makes me feel far more respected and valued as a professional. CEOs and managers have good intentions. They want to protect people from uncertainty. Unfortunately, by not allowing employees to participate in the process, they unintentionally make many people feel exactly that–uncertain. Change happens. And when we know what’s coming, we can better prepare.