Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why is change so yucky?

I’ve discovered in the course of my professional life that people are not comfortable with change. Change is upsetting to many people, wrought with confusion, fear, and trepidation. People worry that the focus of their job will change into something they’re not comfortable with; they worry that management won’t make an effort to understand them as individuals. Mostly, they seem to worry about the act of adaptation.

My primary function before taking over management of the branch location I work for was training and supervising staff members of an accounts payable department. The most-voiced fear regarding change? “What if it’s too hard?”

Really? Where’s the sense of adventure, of excitement? There is no challenge if you’re doing the same thing every day. Instead of asking if it will be too hard, why not ask how you can do a good job? People never ask me that, never inquire how they might be able to do a better job. They ask me how much vacation time I can give them, whether or not they can get an advance on their paychecks; they ask me why our company doesn’t pay them for lunch or they ask for bigger raises or Aeron chairs, or they complain about the state of things, but they never ask me if I feel like they could improve at all.

Addressing change is my current most challenging topic. During my recent trip I discovered many things that need to change at my branch, things that can make us more productive and efficient; things that can make our location more successful. In trying to convey some of those changes to my group, I have run into a bit of a road-block. They are afraid. I’d like them to tell me why they’re so afraid, and what specifically they are afraid of.

My boss has recently suggested some small changes in the office, silly functions that will help people grow accustomed to change. One such suggestion was moving the time clock. She described a situation in which this, and other small, low-impact changes, was done, and it apparently worked very well.

I’d like to try it; I don’t want people to be afraid of their jobs. I want people to be happy doing my work, because I need them to do it. If they don’t do it, I’m screwed. How in the hell do I motivate people to want to change for me?

It’s too bad my time clock is bolted to the wall.


Anonymous said...

Bet you can't guess what I did to get my Aeron chair... ;-)

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Make it easier for people to change than not. For example, I used to work at someplace where people blocked an emergency exit because of where and how shipments came in. No amount of telling people that it would be good not to block the exit or threatening people for doing it did anything.

But when management realized why it was logistically convenient to put things there, they did some rearranging so that people would have had to walk around a table to put shipments in front of the exit. People put things on or near the table instead.

I use the same idea with my kids and husband. Sometimes it takes a little creative thinking, but it's often possible to make it easier for people to do the right thing than not. And when it's easy, they do it. :)

Jade said...

MPJ - thanks for this advice. It sounds simple, as though I should have figured it out on my own.

RHG - I bet it's nothing so naughty as what I'm thinking! Do tell.

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