Talents - February 2016

In every organisation, change triggers both favourable reactions and resistance

This is true in personal life as well as in professional life. Let us start with the observation that resistance to change is normal and should be expected. 

This means we must learn to deal with it, whether we are the cause of the change or one of the people affected by it.

What mechanisms are put in place?

What drives us to decide whether to change? In order to answer this question, we must look at the way our brain works. By nature, the brain is bound to change: through learning, it makes us who we are, from a very young age. Its plasticity explains our adaptation after a brain injury, our progress as adults as we build on acquired skills, etc.

Are we clear-thinking, rational beings or do we let our instincts guide us?

Both! The brain works using two processes: the automatic (implicit) process and the controlled (explicit) process.

  • The implicit (emotion-driven) process is characterised by unawareness of the reasons behind our thought process. This way of functioning is adapted to familiar situations.
  • The controlled (explicit) process is all about logic and planning. It is a deliberate, analytical process: we are fully aware of our choices, and therefore of our behaviour.

To explain human behaviour, we must take into account these two opposite processes.

Decision-making and reactions to change are complex because these two processes are themselves made up of 3 categories of influence on behaviour (psychological, anthropological, and behavioural economics factors).

Depending on factors such as our habits, context, and whether the change modifies our moral sense, we accept or oppose change.

This illustration depicts all the complexity of human beings!


What are the different natural reactions to change?

Instead of reactions, let us talk about the stages which will occur one after the other (or not).

  • Worry, becauseeverything that seemed familiar is put into question.

What to do? Acquire as much information as possible, talk to others, take care of yourself. But do not turn a deaf ear or draw hasty conclusions. Take your time.

  • Opposition due to the perceived extent of what you will lose, or think you will lose, and due to the number of changes that will need to be made as a result of the news you heard.

What to do? Understand what is expected of you, be honest with yourself (are you avoiding the change or not?) and remember that every change brings about a number of opportunities.

  • Acceptance when you realise that some of your fears were unfounded or when you become more optimistic and confident.

What to do? Tell yourself that this is a positive step toward the future, that you are able to face the unknown, and that you must be indulgent because change involves learning, making mistakes, and trying again.

  • Discovery of what your daily life will look like. Keep an open mind in order to explore, never stop learning, and remember that all of these changes represent enriching experiences, both personally and professionally.

What are the conditions to decide to change/act on it?

  • A personal trigger, which is different for each individual.
  • An intuitive reaction: you decide to act because your brain remembers a previous experience you have lived and analyses it (it was good/bad). This prompts the question “do I do it?”
  • A sensible evaluation of costs (financial, human, effort, etc.) and benefits. “Is it worth it?” “What’s in it for me?”
  • A practical evaluation where questions may be raised about logistics, timing, urgency, and priority management.

One thing to keep in mind is that the first condition for change is to truly want it. Changing is accepting to let go of automatic reflexes, taking into account emotions, accepting mistakes you make, and being able to bounce back from failure (which is the reason you must be kind to yourself). We will all go through the awkward beginning phase, so why not try a change?

Change can be emotionally trying

It is normal to hesitate and weigh the pros and cons. It is true that, in a general sense, a positive outlook on life allows us to have a better grasp on what is happening to us.

This makes us better equipped to face new situations. 
Note that if the outlook we have on a situation of change is positive but that we cannot manage to change, it is good to admit that rational fear is hiding irrational worries.

Ideas for reflection:

Look confidently toward the future and do not let yourself be influenced by your fears.
Seek out positive emotions.
Consider the change as you did when you were younger: without bias, away from routine, with an element of unknown.
Take risks and search for new rules to live by.
Compare your old beliefs with today’s values. 



Helping employees manage change  and 10 tips for handling change in the workplace 

From p16: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201012/ldselect/ldsctech/179/179.pdf

Brain plasticity: http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-plasticity/what-is-brain-plasticity

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