Psychological aspects of implementing organizational changes

The importance of organizational changes is known to all managers, but there is a factor that is often overlooked in such considerations - psychological processes of people participating in these changes. Can W. Bridges' concept referring to these processes improve the effectiveness of introducing changes in the company?

Nowadays change management is essential for keeping the company on the market. In order to introduce new rules effectively, one needs extensive knowledge and experience in this field. A common mistake is to ignore the importance of the human factor, and it is people who are responsible for implementing the intended changes. As J. H. Zenger says, "Organizations must change in order to prosper, but organizations only change when people change."

Therefore, an important factor in the implementation of changes is the creation of conditions ensuring employees’ participation throughout the process. The basic condition is personal change.

People react to changes in different ways - with resistance, indifference or acceptance. It largely depends on personality, group and organizational factors as well as on the assumptions of the change itself. It is most beneficial, of course, when employees accept it and help with its implementation. However, such a situation is not common. Negative attitude and resistance will certainly prolong the process, and the desired effects may not appear. It may also generate higher costs for the company. In order to prevent this from happening, one should first try to transform the attitudes of people and enlist their help.

Resistance to change is a natural reaction to the fear of what the future holds. What causes this fear is not the change itself, but the threat of losing the sense of existence in the organization. Symptoms include significantly increased sickness absence, employee turnover, anxious atmosphere, arguments and communication problems. Diagnosing the causes of resistance is key to taking the next steps.

W. Bridges developed a theory based on the psychological processes of people during changes in the organization. In his concept, he makes the distinction between change as a situational factor and transition as a three-phase internal psychological process. Bridges believes that guiding employees through this process is a prerequisite for success.

The first stage of transition is saying “goodbye” to the current situation (“Ending, Losing, and Letting Go” in Bridges’ model). In the next phase, “The Neutral Zone”, full of uncertainty and questions, the current methods are no longer useful and new ones emerge. The final stage (“The New Beginning”) is the development of a new organizational identity and discovering the meaning of the venture. Clear communication of expectations is crucial in all phases.

Have you carried out or participated in a change process in your company? What are your experiences from this period?

Author: Magda Glińska