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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


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