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«Adapted From: Managing Through Change: A Manual for Managers and Supervisors The University of Iowa, April 2009 For The University of California at ...»

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Presented by the UC Davis


Academic and Staff Assistance


Program (ASAP)

Edited By:

Rory Osborne, Ph.D.

Rob Wennerberg, Psy.D.

Alice Provost, MFT

Adapted From:

Managing Through Change:

A Manual for Managers and Supervisors

The University of Iowa, April 2009


The University of California at Davis

Academic and Staff Assistance Program

112 A. Street Davis, CA 95616 2 Table of Contents Introduction

Guidelines to Managing Change

Resiliency in the Workplace

Enhancing Morale and Productivity

Managing Difficult Employees

Substance Abuse

Workplace Violence

Crisis Response

Making Referrals to ASAP

Management Consultation

Frequently Asked Questions




During times of change and chronic stress a wide range of medical and behavioral problems can have an adverse affect on an employee’s job performance. Balancing the demands of work and personal lives can be challenging, especially in tough economic times. An objective viewpoint or perspective can be beneficial for resolving work or personal problems.

Problems can often be successfully resolved when identified early and if the employee accepts help. The Academic and Staff Assistance Program (ASAP) is UCD’s Employee Assistance Program, and is a valuable, voluntary, and confidential resource available to all employees and their immediate family members who live with them.

Events both in the workplace and outside of work can impact your employees and work group as a whole. Many managers utilize ASAP for help with individual and group issues affecting the workplace (e.g., the impact an accident or the loss of a coworker can have on a group). This guide includes information about handling the emotions of people during times of change, reorganizing and reassigning work, and support services and resources. For detailed information regarding how to handle policy and procedural issues please refer to the University’s policy manual and consult with the appropriate department. All services described in this guide are provided at no cost. The term “manager” as used in this Tool Kit includes the role of supervisor.


Current changes in any organization might cause some anxiety and disruption to the workplace, as well as to personal lives. Some people might experience new or different work expectations and priorities, fewer resources, reassignment or layoff of colleagues and co-workers, and/or the emotion of grief or loss.

The Role of Work in People’s Lives

Most people spend a great portion of their lives working, including commuting. People often look to the workplace to meet some of their needs for social contact and support. In addition, individuals’ identities in their professional life contribute to their sense of personal fulfillment. Work then plays a significant role in self-esteem, personal well being, and social wellbeing. When the work environment changes, people can feel challenged or threatened, and will respond according to how vulnerable they feel.

The Human Side of Change

Change is a process that occurs over time and involves themes of loss, uncertainty, and control. Adaptation to change comes in phases and reactions fluctuate greatly. Understanding what people typically experience and need when facing transition can help you to plan for the work and personal issues related to change. One of the most difficult tasks managers deal with during times of major change is assisting employees with their reactions. By developing a resiliency strategy, managers can continue to motivate and engage their employees in their work.

Change is often external and situational: the new manager, the new policy, the reorganization. Unless psychological transition occurs, change will not be successful.

Inward psychological transition occurs much more slowly than situational change. Understanding what happens during this transition time, and allowing oneself to work through it, is key to coming to terms with change.

The biggest challenge organizations encounter in the change process is the failure to identify losses associated with change and to find a constructive way to deal with those losses.

5 Some of the perceived losses that staff members might experience during

times of organizational change are:

 Loss of Attachment. Sometimes change requires working with new people, a new manager, or a new work group. Attachment and loyalty to familiar colleagues runs deep. Leaving the “known” can often feel threatening and make people anxious.

 Loss of Meaning. Change can challenge the operating principles that govern our lives. For example, if an employee feels his or her loyalty is not reciprocated by the university, the meaning of the work can be lost. Loss of meaning is subtle and powerful.

 Loss of Control. Usually the primary loss experienced during change is the loss of control. Human beings like predictability and homeostasis. Change disrupts both, causing uncertainty and potentially an erosion of trust. A sense that one lacks control and is not supported by his/her environment during times of change can dramatically increase stress.

Layoffs and Employee Distress

Distress is a term used when an individual experiences difficulty in managing a situation over time. It is a more significant form of being “under stress.” Manifestation of distress varies greatly among individuals. If not addressed, it can impact the workplace through absences, lowered performance, and possible safety concerns. It is important that managers be able to identify signs or symptoms of distress early and encourage employees to seek help. Addressing issues proactively will result in a higher rate of success.

Some employees adjust more quickly than others in distressing times; some might interpret the change as an opportunity rather than a threat. With appropriate guidance, most employees return to productive working conditions. A more involved action might be necessary in managing

others. Some of the emotions that employees might experience include:

–  –  –

 Physical: Headaches, muscle tension, indigestion, shortness of breath, high blood pressure  Behavioral: Isolation, substance use/abuse, neglecting tasks, decline in performance, poor hygiene, sleep disruption, absences  Emotional: Defensive, irritable, pessimistic, feeling unappreciated, anxiety, confusion, loss of direction, hypersensitivity, depression As the manager, you might be the first to notice such changes in an individual. If these changes appear to continue, approach the worker.

Managing Change with Yourself Understanding your reactions to change, transition, and the reactions of others will guide you toward helpful approaches to coping. Here are some suggestions to consider for yourself and to encourage with your employees.

 Give and get support from co-workers, colleagues, supervisors, family, and friends. Consult.

 Understand and define personal and organizational limitations. Let go, even if only temporarily, of those areas that are out of your control or influence. Take action, if appropriate, in those areas where you do have control or influence.

 Maintain self-care strategies (e.g., diet, rest, exercise, relaxation).

 Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills required to adapt to the changes, or for achieving personal or professional growth from the challenges that the changes bring.

 Establish short-term goals to minimize uncertainty and provide some level of accomplishment.

 Talk about what is happening. Find people willing to listen and talk about what you think and feel.

Managing Change with Employees

It is important to consider that while this is a workplace environment, expectations should be met, and relationships must remain professional, you as a manager have a strong impact on the morale of your employees. Consider the following when you are confronted with emotional reactions in your employees.

7  Ask for questions and concerns. Validate legitimate concerns and negative effects of change that employees express. Employees need to know that they are being heard – even when you might not agree with their perspective. When possible it can help to use the employee’s own words for what they identify as a problem (e.g., “You’ve said you’re not sleeping lately…” or “I remember when you commented about how stressed you are feeling…”)  Ask for feelings and opinions. There might be some employees who are silent and withdrawn. You can often draw them out by reassuring them that emotional reactions are common and that it is safe to express them. Discussing your own reactions is not only appropriate but will help employees feel safe to express their own. If emotions are not expressed directly, they sometimes come out in less constructive ways in the workplace.

 Resist becoming defensive. There might be mistrust between you or the organization and your employees that you will need to address.

Rather than becoming defensive, make a concentrated effort to listen to employees instead of arguing with them. Encourage communication to enhance trust. An opportunity to express feelings will help diffuse employee resistance. Be careful to refrain from problem-solving at this point. Listening first will help you solve problems later.

 Be visible and involved. As a manager it will be important to be visible and accessible. Fear of the unknown can be alleviated through a present and transparent management style. Spend time with your employees. This is not the time to retreat to your office.

Employees sometimes perceive your lack of availability as withholding information, which then can refuel the uncertainty.

Employees will need to have you available on a daily basis. It might be worthwhile to have meetings more often, or to update employees via e-mail on a regular basis. This might be helpful, regardless of new information, to encourage employees to engage in group projects. By spending time with your employees and giving them frequent, regular, and predictable feedback, you can begin to reestablish trust and loyalty.

 Provide information. In each phase of the process, providing information will help in managing fear of uncertainty. Providing specific information might be difficult, but it is helpful to let employees know the current facts and the process you know, as well as any questions you are asking. Resistance comes from fear of the unknown and can be reduced by providing appropriate information.

 Be patient. Individual reactions can differ, so the loss response might not be as distinct or intense in every employee. Employees might

–  –  –

Possible Effects on Safety and Security As employees try to understand the change that is in process, and as individual workloads sometimes increase, two phenomena commonly occur: anxiety and distraction. Each of these can vary in severity and duration. However, most people will experience them at some point in time; sometimes at the same time.

This creates the need for a heightened awareness of safety and security issues. Lapses in concentration and attention can elevate the potential for accident or error. It is beneficial for managers to offer designated times for the work group to talk about the changes that are occurring.

Acknowledgment of the need for greater attention to routines and the work environment will help employees to be more sensitive to these concerns.

–  –  –

Understanding Resiliency Resiliency is essential in a work environment where everyone feels pressured to produce more work, of higher quality, with fewer people, in less time, and with less money. With rapid changes in our personal lives as well, it is clear that everyone must learn how to be change-proficient, cope with unexpected setbacks, and overcome unwanted adversities.

A manager flourishes in a current of constant and complex change by building resiliency skills. Resiliency provides the ability to recover quickly from change, hardship, or misfortune. Resilient people demonstrate flexibility, durability, an attitude of optimism, and openness to learning. A lack of resiliency is signaled by burnout, fatigue, depression, malaise, defensiveness, and/or cynicism. Resiliency gives us the tools to handle hardship and disappointment, and allows us to develop new skills and perspectives that lead to continued success at work and at home.

Resiliency involves maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with stressful circumstances, including organizational change.

–  –  –

Resilient people look for and draw on available resources, and cultivate a broad network of personal and professional relationships. This support network is critical in dealing with challenges, maintaining a broad perspective, and achieving goals. The key to building networks that increase resiliency is to make the connections personal.

Building Resiliency Skills Becoming more resilient might require the acquisition of new skills and understanding. You can foster resiliency by giving yourself and your employees the freedom to make choices and to act on them. It is 10 essential that an individual feel a sense of purpose in his or her work – a clear sense of purpose helps one to approach and respond to challenges from a balanced perspective. One’s job is just one facet of identity, and one’s career is just one aspect of one’s life. That separation will heighten resiliency during times of organizational change, career disappointments, or personal hardship by allowing the freedom to focus on strengths and opportunities rather than anxiety or losses.

Here are actions you can take to build your resiliency, thereby becoming

more accepting of and adaptable to change:

 Pay attention to the people and the work around you. Seek out challenges that stretch your skills.

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