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Organizational Change & Stress

Effects of Organizational Change

Before, during and after an organizational change, you and your colleagues might experience or more of these effects:

  • Anxiety connected with the loss of:
    — sense of security
    — sense of competence
    — relationships
    — sense of direction and control
    — territory
    — job
  • Anger, sense of betrayal
  • Helplessness, vulnerability
  • Uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Lowered concentration skills
  • Active rumor mill
  • Survivor guilt
  • Desire to punish the organization
  • Heavier workloads
  • Low morale
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased stress-related symptoms ( muscle tension, headaches, intestinal distress, depression, insomnia, exhaustion, prone to illness, etc)
  • Burnout

Challenges to Work Relationships During Transition

  • More time needed to discuss the process of change and our reactions to it; less time to do it
  • Less time available for informal relationship building
  • Free time often spent talking about the changes
  • Increased frequency of saying goodbye and forming new relationships
  • Increase in time spent on training and orienting self or others when workload is already high
  • Development of new reporting relationships
  • Increase in rumors, gossip, complaining
  • Increased frequency of interactions that feel tense or hostile; people less patient, not as diplomatic or polite
  • Misunderstandings are more frequent: it is difficult to speak clearly and to hear accurately if emotional intensity is raised, or if people feel rushed
  • Increased competitiveness due to job insecurity
    — holding information back from others
    — gathering up responsibilities
    — increase in territorial behavior
    — not cooperating, not speaking 
    — tattling, sabotage, self-marketing
    — mistrust
  • Increased paranoia, resentment and mistrust of supervisors, managers and the institution
  • Fear of speaking up on controversial issues due to job insecurity
  • Disruption in the sense of belonging to a team

Managing Work-Related Stress

  • Protect your health: notice and respond to stress warning signs
  • Healthy lifestyle habits: good diet, adequate sleep, exercise
  • Protect and use rest periods
  • Focus attention on what you can control
  • Avoid excessive overworking: separate work and home
  • Keep up interests outside of work
  • Limit setting: saying "no"
  • Maintain sense of humor
  • Develop and maintain supportive relationships

Damage Control for Work Relationships During Organizational Change

  • Honesty
  • Ask for information and disseminate information about changes
  • Acknowledge and accept our own and others' emotional reactions to change and adjust our expectations accordingly
  • Use reflective listening and check understandings with others. Take sufficient time with verbal interactions
  • Exit from non-productive conversations involving complaints or rumors which are draining, anxiety provoking or depressing
  • Remember your sense of humor
  • Help and encourage those around you
  • In direct and respectful ways, ask for what you need, express feelings, and attempt to resolve conflicts
  • Choose the right time and place for settling a dispute with someone
  • Disengage from destructive, escalating arguments. Reschedule the discussion
  • Consider taking the first step to resolve a long-standing conflict with another
  • Take a deep breath, count to 10 (or higher) before responding if a highly emotional situation develops
  • Apologize after making a mistake that affects someone negatively

Bibliography

  1. Bolton, Robert. People Skills. Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1979.
  2. Borysenko, Joan. Minding the Body, Mending the Mind. Addison-Wesley, 1987.
  3. Bramson, R., Coping With Difficult People. Valentine Books, 1981.
  4. Bridges, William. Managing Transitions. Addison-Wesley, 1991.
  5. Burns, David. Feeling Good. The New Mood Therapy. Avon, 1992.
  6. Gardner, John. On Leadership. Free Press, 1990.
  7. Lakein, A., How to Get Control of Your Time and Life. David McKay, 1973.
  8. Sapolsky, R., Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. Freeman and Co. 1994.
  9. Seligman, M., Learned Optimism, Knopf, 1990.
  10. Woodward, H. and Bucholz, S., Aftershock:Helping People through Corporate Change. Wiley, 1987.
  11. Miller, Emmett and Halpern, Steven. Letting Go of Stress. Source, P. O. Box W, Stanford, California (relaxation tape).