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Learn about the five types of employees and how they react to change

Today, everyone is being constantly confronted by changes, political, economic, financial, environmental, technological and social and none more so than in the workplace. For most organisations now it's adapt, or be left behind. The same goes for individuals.

Badly handled change communications can result in anything from resentment to outright hostility and everything in between, but at the root of it in most cases is fear. By understanding this, an organisation can take into consideration in its change strategies, the areas where those reactions might emerge and who is likely to react in certain ways. Leaving this to chance, even if other parts of the strategy are properly handled, is simply bad management.

Knowing your people and understanding the psychology of a person’s perspective of change, will also help and will mean you are prepared for every eventuality...

- The control freak

This person's comfort zone revolves around knowing their role and their tasks, which links back to their self-confidence. Change to them means throwing them in on the deep end of something they fear will result in the loss of control and thus deliver a blow to their confidence. This is especially true when it comes to tech changes among the baby boomer workforce. They need encouragement and to be told that management has the confidence that they can handle what's coming and will be supported when the time comes.

- The worrier

This person tends to be anxious no matter what the change. They don't like the unknown in any aspect of their lives. Even moving the water cooler from A to B will make them nervous for a time so the worst way to handle them is to spring sudden changes on them. These employees will need everything spelled out for them every step of the way to reassure them of the positives for them and to offer a sense of security.

- The ambitious

These staff members are the ones most likely to jump on board the change train, especially if it means they will benefit. They may not be so delighted if the changes coming might result in a loss of status or have anything to do with decisions they may have taken in the past and could be defensive. Handle with care by making sure they know how they may have laid the foundation to move forward in a particular area and asking them how they themselves would build on what they've accomplished for the sake of the company given the speed at which the labour market is changing.

- The clockwatcher

Their biggest fear that the changes will bring them extra work, not that most people will not have that exact same thought except their insecurity or confidence issues might be bigger issues for them. If clockwatchers are a necessary part of the operation due to their skills, and if the changes do bring more work especially in the case of layoffs, an organisation will need some sort of reward, perks or compensation system as a sweetener to get them on board and go along with the changes.

- The complainer

For this employee, nothing might sweeten the deal when it comes to change. There are those who are never willing to listen and their mantra is 'this is the way we've always done things'. These people are likely to be the biggest resisters... just because. Hard-core resisters need things spelt out for them and be given a choice of getting with the programme or taking a hike.

If individual concerns are addressed, staff in all of these categories, except the latter, can be turned into allies for change or at the very least, it can soften the blow and that's the least management can do. If the top is not on board and committed to the changes and consistent in implementing the planned strategy, staff will take their cues from there and feel it's ok to drift back into their various comfort zones.

Bottom line, if managers don't take the changes seriously, neither will employees.

A manager I know asked one of his subordinates to start preparing a weekly staff schedule. It wasn't actually a 'life or death' matter and he wanted it for his own information. The worker fell into the 'complainer' category and thus resisted, not doing what he was asked. The manager in turn complained to others that the schedule was not being done but failed to confront the employee about it.

The change, small though it was, was never implemented. The result of this was other staff not taking the manager seriously when he asks for something to be done. Bottom line, if managers don't take the changes seriously, neither will employees.

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