- Contacts and about us
- Courses and resources
- Community challenges
- Customer service
- You teach
- You research
- You manage others
- Career development
- Technical specialists
- Mandatory training
- Performance development review (PDR)
- Learning and development policies and reports
- Frequently asked questions
- E-zine and blog
Team leaders and managers: what can you do to help your staff deal with change?
Recognising the symptoms
As a team leader or manager recognising what your staff or members of your team are feeling about change can help you to choose the most effective communication style to adopt.
The stages of change
In stage 1 and into stage 2 (Shock, Denial and Anger), people want information, they need to know what is happening. Communication should be clear, simple and as informative as possible about the facts related to the changes – it is likely that information will have to be repeated frequently, even if it is to say that ‘things are being worked on still’.
Generally speaking, trying to engage people in a creative processes of coming up with new ideas for the future will probably fall on deaf ears as people will be more concerned with more immediate issues related to how the changes are going to effect their role, how decisions are being made about work allocation etc.
In stage 2, communication should focus on reinforcing the vision and goals behind the change; this will help people start to work out where they fit in. Getting staff involvement in helping to further shape the vision is also a useful way of giving people a sense of control which helps to reduce anxiety and stress – in other words this is a good point to encourage staff to come forward with their ideas.
Finally in stage 3 (Acceptance, Integration) the stage at which the changes are moving into the implementation phase, people are beginning to build new relationships and learn new ways of doing things. Team leaders should focus on listening, coaching and delegating.
The difficulty for managers and team leaders is that the staff for whom you are responsible will all probably be in different emotional states!
There are a number of prescriptions for management of change see, for example:
Major change initiatives will involve a well planned programme of activities incorporating diagnosis, engaging sponsors, engaging stakeholders, mobilising and involving people, communications and visible leadership. These processes work well for some situations – usually ones that are simple and straight forward or where there is no real disagreement about the goals or means of achieving the change.
However in change situations that require people to change their behaviour or way of doing things, individually and collectively, the ‘project management’ type of approaches described above is still necessary but certainly not sufficient. 
Faced with more complex and transformational change, the role of leadership is far more important. The term leadership is not used here to refer to senior management, but to the role played by all managers (and all staff) at all levels of the organisation.
‘Because change provokes fear in may people, leaders can provide direction not by telling people what to do but by clearly communicating the core purpose, desired identity and values of the organisation and the system of which it is apart, together with the key challenges requiring response. These shared understandings can become fixed points in a sea of change, framing important questions and issues. This allows people to think, explore and experiment with new roles and responsibilities. Through questioning and discussion people make their own sense of the changes as an integral part of the implementation process.’ 
Control over events
It is very likely that as a manager or team leader you will no more control over the change then the staff for which you are responsible, 'perhaps, the most honest and helpful strategy for responses to uncertainty, though it may not be the easiest…involves sitting with discomfort'. 
You will need to work with stakeholders to build a new narrative and explain to your team what is important without being too prescriptive about the future.
Models for managing change and the manager’s role are explored further on an in house course called Change Management for Managers. <link>
 A managers guide to leadership (Pedler, Burgoyne, Boydel 2004)
 Leading change. A guide to whole systems working (Attwood, Pedler, Pritchard, Wilkinson 2004)
 What is the place of uncertainty in coaching purposes at senior levels in organisations (Louise Buckle MA research 2009)