How to Deal with Organizational Change

Whether it’s a new sales process, revised PTO policy, different employee benefits plan, corporate restructure, or simply a new website, to the average employee it all means the same thing: Change.

And change scares the crap out of a lot of people.

Why so scary?

All change means is that the way you’re doing things today isn’t the way you’ll be doing them tomorrow. No big deal, right?


This simple idea can be terrifying to employees and leadership alike. And the longer your processes have been in place, the harder it will be to get everyone onboard. Even if your plan is going to make things infinitely better for everyone in the long run, you’ll still run into plenty of folks who just want things to stay exactly the same. “Free espresso all day? Bah! I prefer my daily 9:06 coffee break. Even if I have to walk three blocks and pay five dollars.”

So what should you do if change is in the air at your company? How can you get people to be more amenable and less cantankerous?

Evaluate it

Spend some time examining your current structure and what changes will need to be made to support the new model. The more detailed you are in this process, the better. Choose several key people to weigh in so that you get a full perspective of what the needs are in various departments and areas.  

Create an action plan and select individuals who are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic to be in charge of each step of the process, not just for accountability purposes but also to be goodwill ambassadors. If Grumpy Gary is in charge of training everyone on the new database, it might not go so well. Friendly Florence? Now that’s more like it.

Anticipate it

Recognize that people are going to react to change differently. Much differently. In fact, Friendly Flo could turn into an Angry Annie in an instant. You just never know. Be prepared to encounter any and all of the following:

  • Early adopters and change embracers who can’t wait to get started! These dynamos are planning out the details before you’ve even finished explaining the goal.
  • Naysayers who sincerely believe the whole plan is doomed. These guys are already dreading implementation and plotting the resistance.
  • Non-committal fence-sitters who are somewhere in the middle. These folks aren’t quite sure what to think and could go in either direction.

Communicate it

Now it’s time to get the word out. Don’t be stingy with the details of your plan. Explain the benefits of it and the reasons behind it. Clarify what things will change. Give time frames and set expectations to make things seem less intimidating. Talk about the end goal for when everything is said and done.

After you’ve laid it all out, you’ll be faced with a couple of choices for how to handle the reactions you’ve already anticipated.

1.) Spend your time trying to convert the naysayers and convince the fence-sitters

While attempting to win over the naysayers may seem like a logical plan, trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to change that change is a good idea can be a bit like trying to explain molecular biology to the average toddler. They just don’t get it. They don’t want to and they’re not going to try. And all the time you’ve spent trying to convince them that all of this is a good thing is time that you’re not moving ahead with your new plans.

2.) Spend your time recruiting the change agents and involving them in the process

If you decide to focus your attention on your supporters, you’ll be feeding their excitement, valuing their participation, and helping them help you. These folks can and should play a more active role in the implementation. And as an added bonus, they can help you get buy-in. You’ll start moving forward immediately, and they’ll be setting a great example for the fence-sitters, who are more likely to be influenced by their peers anyway.

Roll with it

As with any change, there is likely to be some fallout, regardless of how well you manage it.

There are some people who will flat-out refuse to adjust and would rather part ways than stay and go through the process. That’s okay. Let them go. Having people onboard who don’t support the company goals and vision will eventually bring everybody down.

Celebrate it

Once you’ve made it happen, reward your early adaptors, your hardworking implementers and your former fence-sitters for jumping on board. Review how far you’ve come and then have a little fun.

Throw a party. Order a cake. If you’re feeling crazy, give everyone the afternoon off. Why not? You’ve earned it.


Photo by lightwise