Supporting your Team through Organisational Change

We don’t have to look far to see organisations going through major adaptations and changes: restructures, downsizing, changing business practices and processes. As a people manager you have probably had your hands and head full, getting to grips with what’s happening in your organisation.

If you suspect your team are going to be affected directly or indirectly, it can be hard to know what to say and do, and how to support them in times of uncertainty.

Here are some Simple Tips – not rocket science, but common-sense advice that you can use as a checklist to ensure you’re supporting your team:

1. Maintain your Own Wellbeing

If you are self-supporting you are more likely to be able to give time and emotional attention to your team. Keep to your routines and give yourself breaks through the day. Set yourself realistic goals which may mean dropping some tasks to build in extra time to support the team. Just like in the aircraft ‘Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others.’


2. Make sure you are Familiar with Formal Processes  

You may think it is not your job to be an HR expert but make sure you know what will be happening and whether or not it directly affects your team at the moment. Your HR team will advise you. For example, if some roles are under threat, there will be a consultation process before final decisions are made. Make sure that you are up to date and check and double check your understanding. We are all by now familiar with the undermining of credibility that comes from giving guidance or information from a leadership position and then having to go back and contradict yourself.

3. Familiarise Yourself with the Change Curve

Your team are likely to be at different stages and will need completely different things from you: They may need time if they are at the shock stage or a chance to vent if they are at the frustration stage. We tend to treat everyone as we would like to be treated, which is fine as a general principle, but when supporting someone through change we need to give them what they need, at the stage they are at.


4. Know the Best and the Worst Things to Say

“I understand how you feel” gets the big thumbs down, as does “You will be fine whatever happens” or “The senior team are making terrible decisions” or in a David Brent style “This is an exciting time for the organisation”.  Instead try ‘How are you feeling today about things?”  “What can I do to help at this stage?”  “How often would you like to check in?” or “The choice of roles to cut has been impersonal, but the impact on those involved feels personal.”


5. Know what Good Looks Like

Have clarity on what you hope your team can achieve over the next 2 months. Imagine yourself in the future, looking back on this period with pride in yourself. What are you pleased about? You couldn’t control the situation but you could control yourself.

  • Perhaps you had a team session to inform everyone together and you managed that session brilliantly: planning it carefully and rehearsing how to respond to questions, starting it and finishing it well.
  • Perhaps it was the way you addressed your own emotional support needs outside the team and were able to focus on the team during your meetings.
  • Perhaps it was the way you took their feedback seriously and fed it back at a senior level.
  • Perhaps it was the regular 121s with your team to check in.
  • Perhaps it was the way you listened without judgement or perhaps it was your honesty and transparency.
  • Perhaps it was the way that you always had your team’s ‘back’ and gave advice and support where you could.
  • Perhaps it was the way you reminded each team member of their qualities, skills and experience and that no change in employment status could take any of that away.

See what good looks like and now plan how you will achieve that with your own team.

When supporting your team through organisational change, the worst thing you can do is avoid talking to them because you don’t know what to say, so take heart that these few simple steps will help make the experience easier for them.

Posted by Shona Ward

These hints are taken from our course ‘Supporting your Team through Organisational Change – 10 Simple Steps for Managers’

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