In my line of work, “change management” is the current phrase for a big topic that’s been with us for a long time. With the beginning of the new year, resolutions to change are abundant. But change, though often needed and desired, can increase conflict. As you’ve probably guessed, communication can help minimize the disruptions that come from change.
Change can contribute to conflict no matter how well the transition is initiated. We get comfortable with the way things are and changes to an established routine can be difficult to adopt. Few people like to move away from tried and true methods, especially when it can take a while for the benefits to become apparent. Change can feel overwhelming. It can add stress to our lives, and sometimes lead us to be impatient and short-tempered.
Clear and timely communication helps ease the pain of change, both with groups and individuals. As an individual, for example, perhaps you’ve made a commitment to lose ten pounds this year. Many studies have shown that sharing your goal with those around you increases the chance of reaching your goal weight. Not only might you get help from friends and family to keep tempting items out of sight, those who care about you can celebrate your interim successes and act as cheerleaders when the going gets tough.
In work groups, too, communication through all aspects of change can help bring the group together. Change at work often comes about through edicts from higher up the ladder of authority. Supervisors can help ease the disruptive aspects of imposed change through sharing all they can, as soon as they can, to help everyone in the group feel “in the know” rather than in the dark. If everyone is aware of what changes to expect, they can work together to help the process go more smoothly, coordinating efforts and ideas to address how to minimize the length and depth of disruption. And when one work group accomplishes an important change, it can set an example for others to follow.
Community groups can also benefit from good communication to promote smooth, inclusive transitions. For example, civic organizations regularly welcome new members to their ranks. During the transition, constructive and comprehensive sharing of information can cement the commitment of the new member. The process of getting new members up to speed may also provide the opportunity to cultivate cooperation among disagreeing factions of established members and strengthen relationships within the organization.
At this time of year many of us are trying to change our lives in some way. Work groups and organizations strive for renewal at many times throughout the year. Welcome the urge to improve, but build stronger relationships and foster success through effective communication as you go through the process.