stressed man

In this article we examine the perceptions people have of how much change occurs in a workplace, and how those perceptions affect behaviours.

In a 2017 article in the British Journal of Management*, Rafferty and Jimmieson comment on this issue. Let’s examine what they say.

A subjective matter

How much is too much? How much is just right? How much is not much? How you answer questions like these would vary from person to person.

It’s similar when we talk about organisational change. Some people would say there’s too much change happening in the workplace. Others would disagree and say it’s just a normal amount.

There’s no objective thing called ‘too much change’, but there are subjective opinions about it. Employees have differing perceptions about it. Some are more sensitive to change than others. Some handle it alright and don’t mind it – or see opportunities in it – and others feel uncomfortable about it.

A turbulent organisation

People who perceive that change happens ‘too much’ are more likely to regard the organisation as turbulent. They may see it as unstable or as undergoing change for change’s sake. They may consider themselves to be unsuited to the workplace.

Negative outcomes

Employees who perceive the organisation changes ‘too much’ experience higher levels of stress, change fatigue, and lower levels of job satisfaction. This would negatively affect their level of engagement and support for what the organisation is doing.

Change fitness

We have said in other places that higher levels of change fitness help employees adapt to changing environments. Low levels of change fitness would increase the likelihood that employees have a lower tolerance for change, perceiving the rate of change to be ‘too high’. They would be more likely to feel stress and fatigue from change and have lower levels of job satisfaction and engagement.

How can you help?

Clearly, the best way to help these employees is to provide opportunities for them to build their change fitness. This will help them have the internal strength to handle change, be less stressed by it, and become more tolerant of it.

And you can also offer them support and deliver messages that help them cope with the stress, and also give them many small opportunities to succeed.

*Rafferty, A., & Jimmieson, N. (2017), Subjective perceptions of organizational change and employee resistance to change: Direct and mediated relationships with employee well-being. British Journal of Management, 28, 248-264.