Manage Workplace Change Through Facilitated Dialogue

Updated: Oct 16

By Robyn Short, President & CEO, Workplace Peace Institute

Reimagining organizations by devising an innovative model that encourages productive, fulfilled, and engaged employees.

The last few years have brought about the greatest disruption experienced in generations. There is no reason to expect that this will slow down in 2022. We should all anticipate ongoing emergence of new Covid variants that will force leaders to suspend long-term planning as it relates to how and where employees show up for work. Hybrid work will continue to spotlight disparities that leaders must have a keen ability to recognize and address. Inflation will likely impact compensation, leading to significant frustration across the workforce. And, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) strategies will need to be prioritized to meet the needs and demands of a workforce increasingly focused on equity. As organizations continue to experience constant change as a new normal, they will be doing so amidst a landscape of ongoing political disruption and uncertainty.


Change, especially chronic change, often leads to conflict. Change rattles people, and that rattling echoes throughout the organization.


Core to the human experience is the need for safety and security, and change often cultivates an environment in which people do not feel safe. This perceived lack of security diminishes morale, decreases trust, suppresses employee engagement, and can have a devastating impact on employee retention and overall productivity.


Too often organizational change outpaces the communication strategy designed to inform employees of how the organization will address current challenges and the opportunities those challenges present. This means that people often experience the consequences of change prior to receiving information about the change itself. Additionally, employees are rarely, if ever, asked how they feel about the change. And feelings matter … a lot.


This all has a compounding effect.


During times of change, people crave information. In the absence of information, people tend to fill the information void with assumptions. Those assumptions inform how a person feels, and those feelings inform behavior. When actual information does eventually roll out from the organization, the “feelings” side of the equation often remains absent. Yet, how a person feels about a situation drives how they choose to behave in response to the information. Which is why it is of paramount importance to engage employees at every level of the organization in dialogue about what is happening, how employees feel about the changes they are experiencing, and what this means to them individually and collectively.


Successful change management strategies incorporate facilitated group dialogues that, by design, help employees identify, label, and express the feelings they are experiencing as a result of the organizational change. This process enables latent conflicts to emerge in a way that supports understanding and allows collaborative conflict management approaches to surface. Employees experience a greater sense of safety and stability knowing that how they experience the organizational change matters. This has an obvious impact on employee engagement and morale, and, therefore, on employee retention and productivity.


Every change management strategy should take into consideration the way the change is felt by the individual contributors of the organization. Organizations will benefit by training managers and leaders in conflict resolution techniques. Employing a professional facilitator to lead dialogues designed to bring feelings to the surface will also have a dramatic effect on how the change is embraced throughout the organization.


 

Dr. Robyn Short is the president and CEO of Workplace Peace Institute – an organizational systems design and research firm that is singularly focused on creating workplace cultures where people thrive. Workplace Peace Institute supports small to mid-sized businesses in optimizing employee engagement, maximizing organizational productivity, and improving profitability by infusing human security and dignity as foundational attributes of their business model.