In my last article, I introduced the concept of change fatigue. Often by the time that change fatigue has set in, it’s simply too late to stop or postpone the change initiatives that have begun. However, as part of the coaching plan for change leaders, and senior and middle management, an organisation should expressly outline the consequences of instigating too many ‘sideshow’ change initiatives. By making this an integral part of change management training, the organisation will remain focussed on its primary goals, and employees won’t become distracted and eventually change fatigued.
The symptoms of change fatigue are experienced at all layers of the organisation, affecting employees, change initiatives, and the organisation as a whole.
6 ways you know your employees are suffering from change fatigue
Change fatigue manifests itself in a number of ways in the workforce. These symptoms aren’t only experienced by low-level employees, but can be evident in everyone, right through to senior level executives. A change initiative is usually partnered by the need to change behaviours, but constant change can create unintended behavioural changes. Individual employees are likely to display a number of change fatigued behaviours, including:
They may arrive late to work and can’t wait to get out of the door as soon as ‘the bell goes’. Their attitude to work becomes apathetic, and their involvement in group discussions and team meetings reduces to a point of indifference.
- Burn out
Overwhelmed by responsibilities, they lack energy for the task in hand. They may stare into space, and even fall asleep at their desk. Soon, absentee rates rise.
- Increased signs of stress
Anxiety and stress rises, and may become present in many ways. Interpersonal conflict, short tempers, and lack of concentration lead to poor work relations.
Workers run around like ‘headless chickens’, rushing from one job to another and accomplishing little. Productivity falls as responsibilities become blurred, and this leads to deep dissatisfaction in the workplace.
- Complaints rise
Complaints rise, and complainers become more vocal.
- Every day is met with cynicism
Every day and every new task is met with cynicism and scepticism. Phrases such as ‘Don’t worry, it will all change again tomorrow,’ and ‘another management initiative that won’t work’ become common mantras.
4 signs that change fatigue is damaging your change projects
With employees suffering from change fatigue, it follows that the change project will suffer. However, this is not the only way on which an organisation will find projects suffer. Here are four other easily identifiable signs of change fatigue on change projects:
- Depletion of project resources
Budgets become stretched, and people are not available because they are ‘busy elsewhere’. Materials, tools, and regular external expertise become scarce.
- Project delivery is regular failure
Change initiatives fail to produce expected results on a regular basis. Projects may never be completed, or only partly finished before the next important project takes precedence.
- Delays and missed target dates
Start and finish dates are missed, hampered by lack of resource. Progress on those projects that have started slows and even grinds to a halt, further hampered by a lack of focus from above.
- Senior change leaders become apathetic
Senior leaders and change managers themselves become confused with all the change that is taking place, and consequently they pull back from leadership. They become as split as their employees, and change initiatives now lack direction as well as focus.
4 signs your organisation is change fatigued
Once change fatigue has set in, cultural change will be seen at the organisational level. Revenues will undoubtedly suffer, as will profits. The major symptoms of change fatigue at the organisational level are:
- Resistance to change becomes automatic
Change initiatives are met with immediate resistance, cynicism, and apathy. Mindsets are turned off from opportunity and tuned in to expectation of failure.
- Operational issues lack focus
With so much going on elsewhere, day-to-day business is almost forgotten. Managers’ time and resource has been divided and sub-divided so often that it becomes impossible to focus on the need to provide customers with product and service.
- Morale collapses
Morale across the entire organisation bounces along the bottom. Employees become disenfranchised, managers become disenchanted. Turnover increases, and key personnel move to pastures new.
- Change initiatives become no more than distractions
Finally, every change initiative is a distraction to all stakeholders. Customers, clients, suppliers, and employees now ignore any change initiative entirely. The result is that the organisation spends more and becomes stuck in the present, which rapidly becomes the past.
In order to avoid these issues, your organisation needs to remain focussed on the future, and focussed on well-planned and properly resourced change. Make your change leaders understand the consequences of change fatigue, as you negotiate the difficult path of constant change. In the next article in this series, I’ll look at the most common reasons behind change fatigue.