One of the least mentioned effects of change relates to how it affects the manager leading that change, and his or her ability to undertake the leadership role. We have already talked about the effects of change on the individual employee, and of course managers are subject to the same reactions, resistances and strains. Some types of change, such as restructuring, or downsizing can put considerable strain on the leaders of an organization.
Stress, Stress & More Stress
One primary concern regarding change is the stress it imposes on those undergoing the change. Managers, because they have obligations to their staff, not only have to deal with change as employees but also need to carry some of the concerns of their staffs. In the case of downsizing, the stress levels can be extremely high, because the manager is charged with conveying very upsetting information.
Stress is part of the job, but in times of change, it is critical that you recognize that it may cause you to act in ways that are less effective than usual. As with anything connected with change, the major concern is not short term but long term. If your stress levels result in marked loss of effectiveness, the risk is that a vicious cycle will be set up, where ineffective leadership results in creating more long term problems, which increases your stress, which reduces your effectiveness even more.
Avoidance — A Common Response
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A common response to unpleasant change is to ignore the situation. Avoidance can take many forms. Most commonly, the avoiding manager plays only a minimal role in moving the organization through the swamp. After announcing the change and doing the minimum required, the manager “hides” from the change, through delegation, or attending to other work. This tactic involves treating things as “business as usual”.
The outcomes of this tactic can be devastating. By avoiding situations, the manager abdicates any leadership role, when staff needs it most, during and after significant change. In addition, the avoidance results in the manager becoming out of touch with the people and realities of the organization.
While avoidance serves a need for the manager in the short run, it destroys the manager’s credibility, and results in poor decisions. The long term consequence of such action is that the organization tends to deteriorate in terms of morale, effectiveness and productivity. Sometimes this deterioration is irreversible.
Denial — Another Ineffective Tactic
Sometimes the manager deals with change by denying its impact. Usually, the denying manager takes a very logical approach to change. Decisions get made, systems are put in place, or new procedures are developed. Unfortunately, this “logical” approach denies the impact of change on the people in the organization.
The denying manager tends to refuse to understand “what the big deal is”, and shows little empathy with employees in the organization. As with avoidance the denying tactic tends to drop the manager’s credibility and destroy any personal loyalty on the part of employees.
Key Points 1) Managers are put under stress by change, and that stress, if mishandled can result in loss of managerial effectiveness. Managers need to be alert to the signs of stress upon their performance. 2) A common management tactic is to avoid involvement in change when that involvement is unpleasant. The affects of this withdrawal can be lethal to the organization and to the manager. 3) Another common tactic is denial of the effects of change. Managers who do this tend to under- estimate the impact of the change, and demonstrate an inability to respond to employees’ emotional reactions to change.