Framework 108 Addressing The Emotional Side Of Change


In change, logic is not enough, especially in implementation. Change execution

" messy. It's emotional. It's uncomfortable, and often even painful..."
CMR, 2021

Logic is required in planning but is less important when implementing change. During implementation there can be emotional upheaval around fear, vulnerability, passion, uncertainty, anguish, distrust, etc, ie people feel no longer in control

Six ways to handle the emotional side of change

1. Accepting the emotional side of change (there is a emotional connection between people and their work; if this connection is challenged, it can trigger an emotional response rather than a logical one; change can disrupt established organisational power structures and the status quo; need to recognise and harness the emotional side of change as change triggers emotions)

2. Understanding the human 'change immune system' (an organisation's 'change immune system' is its culture, ie

"...we as human beings have our own change immune system. Our neural networks and muscle memories are imprinted with our thoughts, beliefs, values, and understanding of how we do things. These allow us to be on autopilot in many aspects of our professional and personal lives - which is necessary for us to balance the variety of responsibilities we undertake and stressors we endure. However, these elements of our change immune system require reprogramming if we are to make and sustain any change..."
CMR, 2021

When you feel threatened, the amygdala hijack response of 'fight and/or flight and/or freeze and/or appease' kicks in. While this is happening, the electro-chemical reaction in your brain blocks access to the prefrontal cortex (the rational thinking part of the brain). Thus the emotional response dominates the rational ones.

One of the challenges in change is to minimise the amygdala hijack and encourage reprogramming of neural networks and muscle memory that will mitigate resistance.

NB change is personal

3. Acknowledging and engaging the 3 brains, ie mind/head (cephalic), heart (cardiac) and gut (enteric) (all 3 are involved in responses to change; they need to be aligned with the organisational direction; these brains communicate with one another, communications going in both directions; in fact,

"...more communications rising up from the cardiac and enteric brains than cascading down from the cephalic brain..."
Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka as quoted by CMR, 2021

This means that the head brain doesn't dictate every thought we think and emotion we feel. It puts meaning to the advice 'listen to your gut' and 'follow your heart'.)

4. Answering the question 'what's in it for me', ie WIIFM (this means understanding how the change is going impact what you are doing, how you are doing it, whether you still have a job; more and more staff are keen to achieve personal fulfilment, or meaning, in their work, often at the expense of job stability; otherwise, there can be a high turnover of valuable staff; organisations can no longer treat staff as a means to achieving business objectives; for millennials

"...Among the most frequently cited reasons for changing jobs? They are disengaged at work and feel that they don't have a compelling reason to stay..."
Daily Pay as quoted by CMR, 2021

"...In short, structuring your approach to change so that individual employees' self-actualisation and successful organisational change are aligned will contribute to building trust, reducing resistance, and moving the change forward successfully..."
CMR, 2021)

5. Encouraging healthy resistance (resistance is an inevitable part of change; it needs to be allowed, identified, understood and handled; for this to happen it requires a culture of trust and respect; it is more a sign of progress than things going wrong

" attention to the root of the resistance. An amygdala hijack, triggering the flight, fight, freeze, appease response, is most likely based on the gut brain, the seat of self-preservation. A challenge to the values that are (or are not) being exercised in implementing the change is based on the heart. Questions about for the rationale for the change or how it is being carried forward successfully are based on the cephalic brain..."
CMR, 2021

The language used can help determine where the resistance is rooted. Some examples

- to 'reason away' refers to logic and involves the cephalic brain

- 'we can help you' refers to self-preservation and involves the enteric brain

- 'it will make you feel better' refers to emotions and involves the cardiac brain)

6. Using communications, engagement, etc to address resistance (develop communications that engage the 3 brains, ie heads, hearts and gut; use stories envisaging the future; use metaphors that unambiguously communicate the intent of the change

"...Engage employees early, and sustain that engagement. Find out what will provide fulfilment to employees at all levels of the organisation, and work with sponsors to craft the design, execution, and outcome of the change so that it is a 'win-win' for both the organisation and its employees..."
CMR, 2021

With resistance, staff are voicing their concerns, fears, doubts, etc)


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