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Organizational Change & Stress

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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; burnout
  • Increased stress-related symptoms (muscle tension, headaches, intestinal distress, depression, insomnia, exhaustion, prone to illness, etc.

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 paranoia, resentment and mistrust of supervisors, managers, and the institution
  • Disruption in the sense of belonging to a team
  • 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

Managing Work-Related Stress

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

Damage Control for Work Relationships During Organizational Change

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


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