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5. How to talk about organisational change: tips 1-5

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Emotional intelligence and EQ can be used to increase the efficiency of bringing about organisational change. How can emotional intelligence and EQ help?

Sometimes change is out of our control but it doesn't stop us from having an emotional reaction

By giving you the tools you need to handle the various emotions people will feel when undergoing change.

So often emotions are ignored or resented by the people implementing change and this makes the situation worse. This is not helpful or emotionally intelligent.

All humans have an emotional reaction to change.

Rather than resenting, ignoring or negating the emotions, or labelling your people "difficult", "change resistant" or "over-emotional"; use emotional intelligence and EQ skills to help you work with rather than against the emotions. This will help your people move through them more smoothly and thus help the whole change process be more successful.

There is much you can learn about the emotions of change: which emotions arise and why, and how to deal with them in a sophisticated, intelligent and productive way.

This is the first article in a two-part series on the applications of emotional intelligence to managing organisational change. This first article covers EQ tips 1-5.

A second article on using emotional intelligence during organisational change provides EQ tips 6 -10.

EQ and change tip 1: Do not bully them into optimism

Telling staff that they have to move on, that they must get on board, and so on is not conducive to helping people cope with change. Do not expect people to get excited by imposed change, it is totally unrealistic.

Most people do not go from hearing shock news straight to optimism and enthusiasm, not even when the news is good or expected. Be emotionally realistic, be emotionally intelligent.

EQ and change tip 2: Acknowledge different feelings

Know for yourself the different emotions that are normal for people when being confronted with change.

  1. Acknowledge these feelings.
  2. Accept these feelings.
  3. Verbalise the feelings.

For example, you might say, "Some of you may feel you have heard it all before, some of you may feel anxious, others may be encouraged". A range of feelings is quite normal when coping with change.

When you own the feelings of your team you are more likely to help them adjust to the changes.

If you are not aware of the emotions that may surface, you might like to check out the book by Barger N.J. & Kirby L.K., The Challenge of Change in Organisations, Daines-Black Publishing. It is quite an old book, but still very useful. Alternatively, I can conduct a master-class or course on the emotions of change in your organisation to help you all move through change more easily.

EQ and change tip 3: Avoid labelling staff as resistant

Once you have categorised your staff as "resistant to change" you may make it harder for them and yourself.

Instead, go beyond the label of resistance and find out what are the underlying emotions. Then help your people acknowledge, release and move through these feelings.

Managing organisational change well requires high levels of emotional intelligence in the people implementing, communicating and managing the change. No change comes without emotions.

EQ and change tip 4: Listen to your staff

Listen to complaints about the change, hear out feelings associated with the change and genuinely be willing to understand your staff's perspectives.

This requires you to have high levels of emotional intelligence, in that you need to be able to do this while managing your own emotions, so you do not become impatient, critical or frustrated. Again, no change comes without emotions.

When people know they have been heard, even if they are not agreed with, it can help them adapt to change and move through the negative reactions more quickly.

EQ and change tip 5: Do not put negative thoughts into people's minds

If you start telling people negative things that won't happen, when they had not considered the possibility anyway, you may be adding fuel to the fire.

For example, I heard a senior manager tell his staff that, "If you ever have concerns, it's your responsibility to bring it to us; ask until you get a satisfactory answer. You will not be penalised for this".

"Oh", thought the staff - who had not thought they would be penalised for anything - "What could we be penalised for?"

Consider in advance the emotional impact that your communication may have on your people. Being able to accurately predict people's emotional reactions is an important emotional intelligence skill, and part of the fourth emotional intelligence competency on the Genos emotional intelligence model: Emotional reasoning.

The language you use also impacts on peoples' emotions. For example, if you say your organisation is "being abolished" this may have a different emotional impact than if you say your organisation is "joining with ..." another organisation.

Consider the emotions you may evoke BEFORE you talk to your people.

Develop even more emotionally intelligent skills in managing change

There is so much that you can do to develop the emotional intelligence across your organisation and manage change well. The EI Institute has a number of options to help you:

  1. There is a high energy, interactive and practical workshop, "Emotionally ready for change".
  2. There is a dynamic keynote speech on change: "Watch out! Emotions of change matter".
  3. There are CDs, DVDs and books particularly the unique and practical DVD programme, "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions". Bulk discounts are available for this so all your employees or team members may have their own copy.

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.