Why Workplace Change Challenges Our Brains

Why Workplace Change Challenges Our Brains
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Workplace Change Challenges Our Brains Because Change Is Hard
We know from our change management simulation that organizational change is accelerating.  We also know that workplace change is rarely easy. Employees often resist change because shifts from the status quo can feel threatening and uncertain. Will your employees and teams be able to adapt to the changes that you seek?

Even for those employees who are apt to greet change in a positive way, unless there are strategies in place to help manage and communicate the changes, those affected by change are not likely to feel as though they can thrive through the change process — they are often forced to simply try to survive.  Not a great place for employees to be.

To be more effective change leaders, we all need to begin to understand what’s going on in people’s brains to better guide our employees through the change process and to shift mindsets from the default negative to the positive.

Choosing a Positive Direction
Researchers in the NeuroLeadership Institute published findings in 2019 that help us understand how the body and brain view change. If we see change as a threat, our hearts beat faster and strain to pump blood through our circulatory system. We feel anxious and unable to cope. However, if we perceive change as a desirable challenge or as an opportunity, our hearts still beat faster, but there is less vascular resistance. With this view of change, we feel less bad and better able to cope.

Our entire being reacts differently based upon how we perceive upcoming changes.  Because of this, the mindsets of change leaders and those affected by change have a direct impact on change’s success. 

The Good News
The good news is that mindsets can be trained and changed.  Done right, even the most change resistant can shift their beliefs in the right circumstances.  This helps everyone become smore agile and resilient in the face of change.

Tips on Creating a Positive Mindset for Change

  1. Reframe
    While you must honestly discuss the costs of change and create a process to let go of past ways of working, do whatever it takes to design and think about the desired changes as an opportunity for growth, innovation, and positive new beginnings, not a threat to power, turf, comfortability, status, relationships, personal identity, or knowledge.
  2. Celebrate
    Notice, celebrate, and reward even the small steps of progress (both behaviors and results) during change. As in striving to lose weight, appreciate each pound lost as moving in the right direction.
  3. Collaborate & Learn
    Look for others who have adopted a positive approach to change and find out what makes them tick.  Chances are they have a growth mindset that you can learn from and emulate.  Being around those who see change as an opportunity for better times can help to put things in a different, and more positive light.

The Bottom Line
While everyone should understand the current situation and the real challenges associated with change, do not underestimate the power of mindsets.  Mindsets matter.  When leaders and high performers set the example of greeting change as a challenge that can help make things better, it sets the stage for others to follow.

To learn more about why workplace change challenges our brains, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

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