Business

The effects of change fatigue on your staff

Let’s face it – change can be exhausting for most businesses unless you are a change management specialist – and even sometimes when you are one. It is nigh on impossible to remain immune to the internal pressures of office politics and difficulties posed by interpersonal relationships. Add to this the external pressures imposed by an ever fluctuating market place and this variety of socioeconomic can place a heavy demand on even the toughest and cohesive of teams; even more so when any kind of change is afoot. The sense of apathy or overwhelm employees feel when faced with too much organisational change is collectively known as “change fatigue”.

The need for knowledge

Countless leaders have tried to implement change in the work place only for it to end badly and result in burn out and a sense of frustration for themselves as well as their employees. No one is exempt from change fatigue and it can affect a company on all levels; employees, managers and directors alike until a business is effectively poisoned from within. Unfortunately, the risk of change fatigue will only increase as the pace of the world increases. So what is the answer?

The answer is to be aware of change fatigue and execute any change management program successfully to avoid creating it in the first place. Otherwise, it can feel like a never-ending game of snakes and ladders with change management needed to correct change management rather than any actual company directives being successfully achieved!

The need for challenges

It is during major organisational shifts such as outsourcing work and restructuring departments/internal roles that run the greatest risk of change fatigue. Unfortunately, many project managers do not see the signs and by that point it can be very hard to get the show back on the road to lead their team to a successful completion. We all need challenges in order to grow and thrive, so why does change that should ultimately be exciting and lead to new opportunities often lead to burn out in so many scenarios; not just once but again and again?

Take me to your leader (or not)

The answer is simply that many team leaders, albeit unconsciously, are uninspired and unfocused and unfortunately it is these energies which are then passed onto their staff – it is no real surprise therefore that a whopping 70 per cent of change efforts fail.

Not just a destination

One of the biggest issues is that managers see change management as a straight-line process with point A to B firmly fixed in their minds. Their team may cross the starting line enthused and inspired but between these two points some kind of influence makes itself known – perhaps a market change or some other factor and point B becomes point C and then D – perhaps going right through the alphabet with no clear winning line in sight!

The marathon of change fatigue

Employees who had a sprint in mind now feel like they are facing a marathon with what feels like ever changing direction signs until they are running around in circles – is it any wonder they burn out and suffer change fatigue?

So, what are the actual signs?

Change fatigue begins with too many distractions which is why businesses are advised to avoid too many “side show” attractions (unnecessary change or too many changes at one time).

You will notice change fatigue in your team by observing the following:-

  1. Disengagement
  2. Increased signs of stress
  3. Confusion
  4. Rising complaints
  5. Cynicism
  6. Absenteeism

You will notice change fatigue in your projects by observing the following:-

  1. Depletion of resources
  2. Project delivery failure
  3. Delays and missed deadlines/targets
  4. Senior change leaders themselves become apathetic

You will notice change fatigue in your organisation by observing the following:-

  1. Resistance to change management becoming automatic
  2. Operational procedures and issues lack a sense of focus
  3. Morale becomes non existent
  4. Change initiatives serve as no more than “distractions”

Setting the pace

What staff need to be presented with is a clear sense of where the organisation is heading, what their role is in that process and the elements of change they need to make top priority.

Likewise; managers need to be able to follow effective business models and quickly assess and adapt throughout the change process whilst offering support and relief if the timeline needs to be extended. In this way; the fatigue that can start off in individual teams and spread throughout the whole structure of the company can be prevented. By taking change management certification – you can literally help secure a company’s foundations and future for many years to come!

Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

One of the worst things managers can do is to launch several change initiatives at the same time. This is a guaranteed recipe for disaster for staff ,who will quickly find themselves confused, disillusioned and exhausted; especially when they still may be working on existing projects! Having too much work-in-progress will confuse priorities, cause frequent role switching and increase overheads. Rather than multi-tasking – people will be sent into “meltdown” which will only reduce productivity and ironically delay projects.

Change takes work but it can be good work

It is completely normal for staff to have off days but run of the mill tiredness will not spell doom for any small or large-scale change effort but change fatigue certainly can.  Good work can be hard work so organisations need to remain focused on the future but mindful of well-planned and fully resourced change in order to support their staff who will take them into that future.

A structured approach that prioritises projects in order of importance as well as limiting the number of projects being worked on at any one time is key to a company remaining focused on its employees and its primary goals. The rest are just “side show attractions” and therefore unnecessary distractions that will only encourage change fatigue.

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