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Managing Change in Uncertain Times

  • June 17, 2020

We are now living in a world that is very different from what we were used to only a few short months ago.

The monumental changes to all of our working lives, and now, trying to rebuild teams and businesses in a new environment will be a challenge for many leaders.

Managing change is a pertinent leadership topic, but it is particularly relevant right now.

No single management method will suit every company. You must be finely tuned to your organisation’s needs, your employee’s capabilities and find a process which works for both.

In today’s blog, we take a look at how leaders can manage their teams effectively through the changeable period we are currently in. Let’s start by looking at the most well known psychological model for dealing with change, the Kubler-Ross Change Curve.

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve

You might be familiar with this model in terms of loss; it is the renowned ‘five stages of grief’ framework.

Businesses have been applying this model to their organisations to deal with change for years – to great effect.

The model outlines five different stages a person goes through when dealing with a significant change; let’s look at how this applies to change in business.

  1. Stage one is shock and denial. Being presented with change can be overwhelming, so managers mustn’t overwhelm employees at this stage.
  2. Stage two deals with fear. After realising the situation is real, employees might become scared of the change that lies ahead.
  3. Stage three is bargaining. At this stage, the employee is looking at how they can best adapt to the new situation in a way that they can deal with.
  4. Stage four is the learning stage. Here the employee must deal with learning how to cope in their new role or environment.
  5. The final stage is embracing the change, where employees finally start to accept the new situation and build new hopes and aspirations.

As you can see, there is a lot involved in implementing change in your organisation; it is far from simple.

I want to share with you some strategies to help manage change in your organisation to ensure changes happen as smoothly as possible, starting with a key management principle – transparency.

Transparent Leadership

All change contains some risk of the unknown, and this is especially true of the current climate. However, there is a difference between being cautious about planning for the future and withholding information from your employees.

Transparent leadership builds trust, and the more trust you have in your organisation, the better you will perform. Right now, your employees need you to be transparent about potential changes in your organisation from social distancing measures to long-term business plans.

Four ways you can operate as a transparent leader are –

  • Be honest with your team at all times. Nothing destroys trust like finding out you have been misled or lied to.
  • Be open and accessible. Ask for, and be prepared to listen to feedback.
  • Ask questions and show interest in how the team are coping with their current situation – can you do anything to help?
  • Do not avoid difficult situations; confront them head-on.

Building trust with your team is essential to lead them through periods of change; your employees need to trust 100% that they can depend on you in a new and uncertain territory. But what else can you do to help your team through a period of significant change?

Think About How You Can Serve Your Team

Many leaders get this basic principle of leadership wrong: leading is about serving others, not being served.

You rely on your team to perform just as much as they rely on you to guide them. As members of your team return to a changed workplace, they will be looking to you to guide them not just on new work practices and changes in their role, but a whole new way of working and of thinking about work.

There will likely be significant differences as and when your team return to work. A noticeable change will be a reduced workforce, which many organisations are dealing with as they keep employees furloughed and working from home to keep workplaces socially distanced.

Think about the sub-teams in your organisation. As people return to work, are there key players missing? You might have to step in for members of your team who are now working from home or still furloughed. This doesn’t just mean managing workloads within teams; it means being emotionally supportive for those who are missing their colleagues.

Help Employees Find a New Purpose

A big part of management is training and developing your employees to increase their skills and confidence; do you currently have training plans in place for employees that were decided at the start of the year?

These plans are no longer relevant.

The goals of the organisation and indeed, each employee, might have been altered significantly by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Employees will be considering questions such as:

  • How has my role changed?
  • Where do I now fit into the organisation?
  • How has the virus affected my career plans?

Some of your employee’s roles will have changed drastically; their workload might have increased or decreased; they might be assigned new tasks in new departments; they might even have to retrain.

You must have an in-depth discussion with all employees about what the changes in your organisation mean for them. If their roles have changed, this will include drawing up a new training and development plan with different goals and different milestones.

Aside from personal development plans, the aims of your workplace might have also changed. Is it time to re-evaluate your organisation’s purpose and vision?

Refocus Your Vision

At the heart of your business should be a vision or mission statement which underpins everything you do.

For example, Microsoft’s is ‘A computer on every desk and in every home’.

But what has this got to do with managing change? The senior leaders within your organisation must re-evaluate your company’s vision and goals – having a clear goal will be critical to your businesses success in a changing world.

Your new vision will then filter down to each employee, injecting meaning into their changed roles. Researchers at the State University of New York found that asking employees about their daily tasks and then asking ‘Why does it matter?’ four times afterwards helped connect employees to a higher purpose.

Teams which have been mostly disjointed over the past two months will be craving routine. Re-evaluating your vision and relaying this to employees will help them feel secure in an unfamiliar working landscape.


Many organisations are finding that where some areas are being scaled back, others are thriving. For example, online services are thriving, and working from home has meant that some organisations are exploring cost-saving measures by relocating.

If your organisation is looking to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace to scale and grow, and you require talented employees to do this – we can help.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your vacancies, or call our team on 01772 259 121.

About Clayton Recruitment

Clayton Recruitment has been partnering with organisations across the country since 1989, and during that time has built up an excellent reputation for trust and reliability.

With specialist divisions covering Commercial, Financial, Industrial and Engineering appointments, on both a permanent and temporary basis. If you are looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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