Ten Commandments for Managing Change Fatigue

By Danny Ceballos and Lisa Stokes Nicholas

Prolonged periods of change can create fatigue. Change fatigue is the result of organizations enduring one significant change after another without relent. It is a form of burnout.  

70% of organizational changes fail because people cannot move through this fatigue. While fatigue is likely, failure is not inevitable.  It is possible to move through this stage of change by strategically managing change fatigue in the following ways.  

SUGGESTION: Take one Commandment per day and integrate it into your communication with others and how you model the Commandment. Show others that it’s okay to actively manage change and the fatigue that often accompanies it.  

1.    Acknowledge and Accept:  The first step to overcoming change fatigue is recognizing that it exists. Acknowledge it and invite people to identify its impact on them as well as strategies for dealing with the fatigue. Accept that change is not going to go away, that indeed it is key component of successfully meeting your client’s changing needs.  

2.    Honor and Allow: Honor what was, as well as the need for continual change.  While the work can and should continue to move forward, let people know that it is okay to feel frustrated or overwhelmed or to wish things could go back to “normal”.

3.    Inspire and Describe: Keep everyone focused on the desired outcome, how it will benefit the organization and its clients, and their role as leaders in effecting change.  Make sure to clearly outline the project goals, the metrics that will be used to measure progress, and the project end date.

4.    Distinguish: the difference between temporary, project driven surges in workload demands and routine responsibilities.

5.    Reward and Empower: Identify the early benefits of the change as soon as they materialize. Express gratitude for people’s hard work through recognition or rewards.  Remember that employees’ stress is directly related to their level of control. Ensure that employees understand their contribution to the overall project goals as well as the quantifiable, achievable steps to reach those goals. Encourage them to monitor and share their progress. And whenever possible, empower them to make real changes.

6.    Care and Collaborate: Outline resources that are available to employees for self-care. Talk about and model good self-care. Check in with each other about personal care plans. Offer each other support and care. Make sure to collaborate with your coworkers whenever possible. Commit to provide each other support with simple and complex needs.

7.    Build in Success and Celebrate: Keep the momentum going by building in successes early in the process. Identify and solve less difficult challenges early on. Recognize each other’s achievements and contributions throughout the process. Highlight and celebrate the positive milestones.

8.    Communicate: During intense change the same information must be conveyed up to six times before it is absorbed.  Therefore leaders will need to communicate about the project goals and progress on a regular basis.  

9.    Revisit and Be Humble:  Monitor change initiatives and, if something is not working, be willing to hit the reset button. It is okay to have do-overs. Establish feedback loops to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the plans.  When things go off course model humility in acknowledging what is not working and using the situation as a learning opportunity.  Encourage leaders model this by discussing their mistakes and learnings throughout the process.

10.    Have Fun:  Look for opportunities to make the work fun, whether it is by providing donuts in the break room or empowering employees to build contests or games into the change process.  Identify the humor in the day-to-day challenges or absurdities that arise.

Danny Ceballos, is a leadership consultant, trainer and executive coach. He is the founder and principal for Unleashed Consulting, where he works with individuals and organizations to excel in workplace performance, productivity, and employee engagement by "Building Better Bosses". Danny works with CEOs, executive directors, management teams, and Boards of Directors to create workplace systems, processes, and best practices that are sustainable and triple bottom-line effective.  http://www.unleashedconsult.com/  

Lisa Stokes, is a merger consultant, mediator and planning coach. She is the founder and principal for Kavi Consulting Services, where she works with purpose driven individuals and organizations to bolster performance and achieve the outcomes they desire.  Lisa works with CEOs, executive directors, management teams, and Boards of Directors to unwind complex problems and improve performance through mediation, merger, governance, and planning support.  https://www.kaviconsultingservices.com/