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The Psychological Effects of Change Management

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

An organization is a “system of interacting subsystems and components set within wider systems and environments which provide inputs to the system and which receive its outputs” (Senior, 2002, p.5). That is why each organization affects the system but is being modified by the latter as well. According to Armstrong (2009, p.404), as “there is no such thing as ideal organization” the change is vital. The author argues that by facing each problem, the organisation should be modified in order to achieve the “best fit between the structure and the circumstances” (2009, p. 405). On the other hand, an organization has different components such as employees which are the essential assets for a company, highly likely they will be affected from the change management of the organization in different ways. There is no doubt that the most important impact is the psychological one for the employees which is considered as resistance to the new management system. These effects should be managed carefully in order to facilitate the change process.

Contrary to those who believe that change can only be successful through coercive measures, this paper argues that change must be implemented through a positive approach which consists of a dialogue process with employees. The communication and the presentation of the change management plan will allow employees to express their thoughts and feelings about it. Because their reaction is taken into account, they will feel part of the change process, and they will be more likely to adapt to a given change. This, at the end, will ease the implementation of change, and will help the company to finalize this process in a more peaceful and successful way. Firstly, the concept of change management concept will be explained briefly. Secondly, the concept of resistance and the psychological effects on the employees such as shock of the new, inconvenience, fear of failure will be discussed, and finally, the mitigation methods which depend on the choice of change management programme will be enumerated such as communication, presentation of the change management plan, and bargaining which will be discussed with their effects.

THE CONCEPT OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT

The change management is the way of dealing with a possible change process since that every company should be ready for a potential modification in the system in order not to be effected by it in a negative way. The concept is defined by Armstrong such as “the process of achieving the smooth implementation of change by planning and introducing it systematically, taking into account the likelihood of it being resisted” (2009, p.424). Although the change is the only thing that stays constant in the organization (Armstrong, 2009, p.424), and that is the reason why the change management has a vital place in the organizational life. “Change” starts with a need of modification in the system and happens during a process. Even though nothing disturbs the organizational life, change will happen in a range of time (Senior, 2002). The reason why the change emerges can be internal or external. The former consists of a revision of the administration, redesign of group jobs, external factors can be either social-cultural or political (Senior, 2002, p.5). There exist three types of change: strategic change which is a long term modification, operational change which is related to a change of a part of an organisation and transformational change which affects dramatically the structure, the process and behaviours of the organization (Armstrong, 2009, p.425). In either way a change management programme is highly required to companies.

There is a variety of change programmes, and everyone has its own approach, but five characteristics are common between these according to Binney and Williams : “vision, telling people what that vision is, top management determination, planning and programming and adopting the best practice” (2005. p.296). The management process aims success by decreasing the resistance against the change.

The PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACTS OF THE CHANGE MANAGEMENT

The change management has psychological effects on employees because of the fact that every modification creates a resistance to the organization. As the former will create a new system for them, it can be said that every change management programme is the change itself. As psychological impacts, “shock of the new” (Armstrong, 2009, p. 431) can be cited, it means that employees will go through a process that they do not know, and they are afraid of it since it is unknown: the new situation will be distinct from the routine. There is also “inconvenience” (Armstrong, 2009, p.431) because they may think that their life may be more difficult than the previous one.

Moreover, the change causes economic fears and uncertainty of the new situation and the latter symbolises a threat to interpersonal relationships that they build during their former organizational life. The new system will probably bring new rules, and they will need to integrate themselves to the new procedures: as to Steers and Black, they may doubt about their competences and they may have a “fear of failure” (1994, p. 669). Furthermore, it is also the fact that group norms and role prescriptions can be changed and their status may not be the same as the former. As it has been enumerated before, the employees will face a different aspect of their own organization, their habit and their group norms will change and there will be multiple effects on their psychology. That is the reason why employees will show some kind of a reaction called individual resistance (Steers, Black, 1994, p. 668) to the implication of the change management. The resistance can even cause the failure of the implementation since employees are the most important assets of the organization.

The psychological impact has been covered of five stages by Carnall (1990), which can be helpful to understand the resistance’s change. These five steps are general ones which employees pass through during the process of change. The first stage is “denial” (1999, p.211) where the employee does not admit that he needs a change in the organization and tries not to accept any changes with a disbelieve to his employers. Carnall argues that it is a warning period and there will be no decrease of performance. The second stage is the “defence”(1999, p.212) where the employee gets the new position or the new environment but does not want to do it and find excuses related to the new situation. The third one is “discarding” (1999, p. 212) when employee starts to let go the past, and starts to getting used to the new procedure. This is where employee accepts that “the change was inevitable” (1999, p.213). Stage four is “adaptation” (1999, p. 213) where the integration of the employee is realized and everything works according to the plan. The last one is the “internalization where the new change management plan has been became a “normal one” (1999, p.214): it is the phase where the normalization of the behaviour occurred.

The MITIGATION of THE PSYCOLOGICAL IMPACTS

The psychological impact should be mitigated in order to realize the change management aimed. Human element is the prime benchmark at this point, it means that every effort must be made according to the interests of those who have been affected by change (Senior, 2002). Mitigation will help to make the employees accept the change management more easily and adapt them to the new sturucture that they are willing to face. It should be underlined that the mitigation effect depend on the change management nature that has been chosen by the administration.

Overcoming the psychological effects can be done in multiple ways, the best is to present the change management programme to the employees and try to get them into the project in order to reach a better level of integration. The communication is essential at this point (Armstrong, 2009), it does not mean that the employee will have influence on the change, but at least they will be able to predict their future, which will bring the decrease of the fear that they feel. It is not necessarily an active participation of employees, but an explanation of the reasons why the company choose to make a modification on the current model of management, and its plan in order not to make frighten employees.

Every affects that will be faced depend on the introducing method; it may make people a part of the plan and will push them to collaborate with the company. After communication process, the company should also identify the possible fears and their reasons, and after, the administration should find ways to resolve the problems which may occur during the process (Armstrong, 2009). This kind of an attitude will not only help the integration of the employees to the new system but also will provide more credit to current the administration. On the other hand this communication phase can be done as participation to the decision making. The administration can listen to the employees carefully and take them idea as well for understanding in a better way their point about the change (Beech, Kenna, 2008, p. 95). In that case alienation of employees to the change will be less.

The company could choose a step forward of communication: bargaining. In that case the employee is having a role in the process. Thurly’s model is a well example, this plan has five steps as directive, bargaining, “heart and minds”, analytical approach and action based. In this case, the change management is imposed to the employees by the management power at first, but then the process is negotiated between the employee and the employer which will help the administration to understand the possible psychological effects of the change, and modify the plan according to it. A brain storming is being done and the management power will find the best way to adapt the new system. In that model the employee is not only a part of the plan but also is facing the administration which will give the feeling of importance to the employee. Moreover, Beech and Kenna share the same idea, according to them when the administration choose a “bargaining method” (2008, p.95) the company can attract more people to collaborate in an easy way and employees who had been helped the administration can have a better position in the change management process. Furthermore, training and skill development programmes (Beech, Kenna, 2008) can be used in order to decrease the psychological impacts as fear of failure or inconvenience.

On the other hand, the physiological effects can be managed by “coercion” (direct threat), “manipulation”, “withholding negative data” (Beech, Kenna, 2008, p. 95). There is no doubt that the administration will show it force on the employees by these methods but is should be underlined that the fear will be more in long term, and additionally the employees will lose their thrust to the administration. Beer et Al argue that people can adopt to a new organizational system and the change should be done in a sharply way but showing the overcome is always a better way, since the behaviour and conscience are related to each other (Armstrong, 2009, p. 428), and more the employee will see the outcome, the more he will adapt itself to the new situation.

CONCLUSION

As a conclusion, change for every company is a must since it is interrelated to the system and because of the inputs and outputs, change becomes inevitable. Every organization needs to have a change management plan for being prepared to a new organizational system. There are multiple change management programmes; their common point is their aim which is to decrease the effects of change. Additionally, to every plan there will be a resistance; it is “result of fear, prejudice, anxiety and ignorance” (Calmon, Paton, 1992, p. 9) the change management plan has psychological impacts on employees such as shock, inconvenience, fear of failure. They live it in five stages as denial, defence, discarding, adaptation, internalization according to Carnall. The psychological effects can be mitigated by communication, participation of the employees to the management plan and bargaining. On the other hand coercion can be a way as well, but the best way is to handle the process by a positive way because of the fact that the employee is the most important asset of the company moreover the programme will be more efficient, and easy to adapt.


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