IC HUB

The emotional rollercoaster of change in internal comms

September 25, 2017

Whether it’s mild skepticism or all out panic, reactions to change vary greatly.

A common factor in change, however, is resistance.

Change leads us into unknown territory, which represents risk.

Familiarising ourselves with new things also requires effort.

In environments where time is at a premium, such as the modern workplace, this is an instant turn-off.

This presents a conundrum for internal communication professionals. We know it’s not an option to never refresh our platforms.

But we also know that changes such as relaunching a magazine, updating an app or altering a meeting schedule can create the kind of negative vibes that are toxic to engagement.

If you’re thinking of changing one of your main IC tools, take a moment to consider Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; the psychiatrist who created the eponymous model of grief management.

The Kübler-Ross change curve was originally intended to postulate the emotions of people who are experiencing genuine emotional trauma. Over the years however, it has also been applied to change management in the business world.

Could it also be applied to internal communication?

The popular perception of this model – that people move from emotion to the next in a timely sequence – isn’t quite right.

But what Kübler-Ross intended was to identify the key feelings associated with grief and how these affect people’s wellbeing. In the business world, we simply swap ‘wellbeing’ for ‘morale’ or ‘performance level’.

By empathising with audiences and taking proactive measures based on people’s likely emotional states, IC professionals will be in a strong position to ensure changes go smoothly.

Strategies for change management: guiding people towards acceptance and integration

Shock = Alignment
Engage with audiences at the first opportunity to inform them about the change, discuss why it’s necessary. Tailor the tone, language and delivery method of your messages to employee preferences.

Denial = Inspiration
Explain what the positive outcomes will be. Align business benefits with personal benefits so people will want the change to succeed. Make it clear that the change is happening, but be careful not to sound too authoritarian.

Anger = Maximise communication
When people are angry or frustrated, they need to be listened to. Provide maximum opportunities for communication between employees and key stakeholders for the change (sponsors, decision-makers, deliverers, etc).

Depression = Motivate
Understanding the reasons why people might be uncomfortable with change. Why might they be wary of a new-look magazine, or reluctant to try an app’s new functionality? Share stories about colleagues (or employees from other businesses if necessary) who had similar feelings but now love the new version.

Above all, strike a positive ‘can do’ tone in your messaging. Let people know that this is a change for you too, and lead by example.

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” - Sydney J. Harris.