Emotions in Change Management

Emotions in Change Management

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8398-1.ch007
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In this chapter, the authors focus on emotion during a time of organisational change. While we read everywhere about disruptive change, transformational management, and similar topics, it is still not clear how organisations should go about such changes in their business models, processes, and procedures. The explore emotion management during transitions in the workplace, thus identifying general stages individuals go through, while offering practical tips to deal with them. Because different emotions can arise during a period of change, the authors introduce to the dynamics of power within the organisation, and how these can influence the success of change initiatives. In particular, they mention the hygge philosophy and the Theory U movement as practical examples of change management processes.
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Emotion For Organisational Change

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions”, says William Bridges, author of several books on transitions and their psychological nature (Bridges, 1980, p. 3). What does that mean exactly, and how can it help our approach to emotion in change management? It is important for everyone in the workplace to understand that changes consist of two separate, very distinct moments. First of all, we have change, which is an event, that can be for example, a death, birth, merger, reorganisation, a new job, or downsizing. Then, there is the human response to change, which is not an event, it is a process. As we hinted before, human reactions to change vary and may include excitement, heightened emotions such as anxiety, fear and anger, as well as psychological trauma and confusion. If you think of the popular saying, according to which people do not change in real life, you might be more inclined to believe that even within the organisation, people do not typically change their attitudes, beliefs, feelings and allegiances overnight; this, whenever it happens, it happens gradually (Bridges, 1991).

Change management provides you with all the tools to overcome difficult situations with employees, processes and organisational culture. Which factors can influence a positive result in change activities? According to some researchers, “implications for successful change management depend as much on the management of the transition period as its strategic formulation” (Clarke, Hope-Hailey & Kelliher, 2007, p. 92). So, we should take into account what we aim to achieve with our changes, and in particular how we manage people’s expectations during the transition between the before and the after we envision. Thus, for successful change management, emotions associated with organisational life are fundamental once again. What is it the best approach to emotions then? During times of change, emotions must be emphasised rather that the “overly rational portrayal of both change management and managerial activity” (Clarke, Hope-Hailey, & Kelliher, 2007, p. 92).

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