But is it really change itself we fear? Or is it that we often don't trust the people effecting change and their motives? It may not be the case that those in charge have bad intentions, but we perceive this to be the case more often than not.
This makes sense when we consider that many major organizational changes are discussed confidentially at various levels of management for some time before employees are informed; in lots of cases employees aren't involved in the decision-making at all, and how and what to inform employees of is discussed and evaluated behind closed doors until the final decision and a set of FAQs is ready to be presented to employees.
The problem also stems from a lack of real understanding of each others' interests, and in some cases destructive competitive dynamics that hamper candor and collaboration. In the case of management, this may stem from managers seeing their access to information as their source of power, or feeling that their employees cannot be trusted with information for whatever reason.
The solution must increase trust between employees at all levels, and increase engagement of everyone affected by a given change by involving them in the decision-making or "change management" process.
- Managers share problems/successes and implications for change as timely as possible. Enforce this by making part of the manager evaluation criteria (which could potentially require a modification of management/performance review timelines, or ways to address this retroactively) how timely their employees and other stakeholders were made aware of issues impacting them.
- Invite employees to provide input on whether change is required and do some intial brainstorming on how to respond to the need for change.
- Employees implement changes: create action committees made up of representatives from all stakeholder groups; openly share how the groups are defined, and invite each group to elect their representative (rather than management choosing the people who will participate). Team decides on what changes will be implemented and how.
- Improve communication: committee communicates decision-making process in real time, and communicates decisions when they're made. Prepares FAQs and holds Q&A alongside management.
- Experiment: try this out on a small scale with a small issue. For example, if employees raise a concern in a team meeting, or you raise a concern, present it to the team and ask them to follow this process to propose a solution. After the change has taken place, do a debrief with the team to get their feedback on the process. Iterate.
- Get employees and managers talking, up, down, and across the organization, about their "interests": what do they want to achieve personally, for their team, for their organization, and why. Who are they really, work aside? One way to do this could be a "table for 4" idea, where people who work together can have lunch on a rotating basis and get to know each other before they're put in a change situation where emotions and suspicions could run high. Building this foundation will be helpful when change is imminent.