If all changes were positive, such as winning the lottery or learning your favorite sweater from high school is now all the rage, people would react differently to change. Unfortunately, change often takes the form of layoffs, downsizing and new work methods -- you know, the scary stuff adult nightmares are made from. While each employee has her own way of dealing with change, the overall effects can create a workplace disturbance.
When workplace changes hit, employees may react with fear, sadness or anxiety. The big question is "How will the change affect me and my job?" Until that question is answered, productivity may suffer as employees explore possible scenarios or spend company time revamping dusty resumes and building professional networks. Absenteeism may increase as people take off work to go to interviews or stay home because they no longer see the point of being a conscientious employee.
Until official word is handed down, don't be surprised if employees are confused about what is expected of them. A lack of open communication between employees and management creates a vacuum that will quickly be filled with gossip, half-truths and misinformation. Even if the changes will not affect all employees, seasoned employees may start to doubt their abilities and need more hand-holding from management to get through tumultuous times.
As management communicates the full impact of the changes, employees will take a breath of relief. "Thank goodness, I still have a job!" becomes the sigh as employees understand what is expected of them and strive to acclimate to the changes. While old timers may still grumble and tell stories about the good old days, they, too, slowly accept the changes as inevitable. Managers who consistently insist on the implementation of new procedures will see the best results.
Over time, the painful transition into a new way of thinking will fade into a distant memory and work will return to normal. Gossips will find something new to talk about, and employees will fall into a familiar routine. Production will return to acceptable levels. The employer may have lost a few employees, but how much of a loss is it to lose people who are unwilling to accept change? The remaining employees may feel like a tighter team because they survived the challenge.