Change At Work Can Negatively Impact Morale, Cause Employees to Quit

Unless You’re a Major League Ball Club

As October draws near and MLB teams are dropping like flies from playoff contention, organizational changes are being planned in the front offices of teams who will end their season just after September. In today’s increasingly competitive economy, businesses from small to large are getting closer to mirroring baseball in the frequency of their own internal changes. The enduring difference being that, outside of America’s favorite pastime, talent is a lot harder to find and hold onto. As a result leaders of non-ball-club-businesses might ask themselves before making a change: what will the impact be on the rest of our workforce and how can we make it a smooth transition?

Impact of Change on Employees

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), if you don’t properly prepare, the impact won’t be good. In their 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey, the APA found that organizational change at work can negatively impact employee morale, increase stress, and create work-life conflict.

Workers who were affected by organizational changes reported lower levels of job satisfaction; were three times as likely to say they don’t trust their employer; and more than three times as likely to say they aim to seek employment outside of their organization within the next year. Those experiencing a change at work were more likely to feel cynical and negative towards others, over-eat, and take more frequent smoke breaks during the workday. Additionally, workers dealing with change were four times as likely as those who weren’t to experience illness, allergies, headaches, or other physical pain that prevented them from achieving their goals at work.

“Change is inevitable in organizations, and when it happens, leadership often underestimates the impact those changes have on employees,” said David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “If they damage their relationship with employees, ratchet up stress levels and create a climate of negativity and cynicism in the process, managers can wind up undermining the very change efforts they’re trying to promote.”

The underlying reason for negative employee reaction to change could be their perception of possible hidden agendas behind the change and doubt about the likelihood of a successful outcome, according to the study.

Working Toward Positive Employee Perception

So how can business leaders who aren’t in the Majors help organizational changes go smoothly?

Ideally you will have had a strategic plan of which everyone in the company is already aware. If you have a history of carefully planning company decisions, your workforce is more likely to trust future decisions. Update the strategic plan to what things will look like post-organizational change and share it with the employees. Elicit feedback before making final decisions so concerns can be aired and dealt with before becoming a problem.

If you don’t have a strategic plan, well, I point you toward the wisdom of a Chinese proverb to which I often refer in my own life: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Connect with a professional strategic planner and write a plan for after the organizational change takes place. Involve employees in writing the plan and make sure they feel well heard.

In conclusion, if you don’t plan well before making an organizational change you will almost definitely have to plan for fallout after it’s made. After all, business is like a baseball game: when you get thrown a curveball you’ve got to be ready for it.