Two warning signs that your change management effort is going to feel really painful

But not every change management effort is going to feel awful; there are even personalities that need lots of change in order to feel energized and engaged. So how can you assess whether your employees are going to experience your big change management effort as exciting or painful? Here are two warning signs that indicate that your employees are probably going to find your change effort really painful.

Overall, 28% of respondents say that they like taking risks. But there are very big differences in how people feel about taking risks depending on their level in the organization. For example, 40% of top executives like taking risks, but only 24% of frontline employees feel that way. So on average, the CEO is 66% more likely to enjoy taking risks than the employees.

And that’s where we’re likely to run into problems.

If the CEO loves taking risks, (e.g. entering brand new markets, launching untested products, disrupting tried-and-true processes, etc.) they’re likely to push for changes that are far beyond the comfort and capabilities of their employees. And while the changes may eventually get made, it’s a safe bet that there are going to be some newly disgruntled and disengaged employees (along with a bunch that couldn’t take the riskiness and quit the organization).

People driven by Affiliation want harmonious relationships with other people and they want to feel accepted by others. These individuals prefer work that provides significant personal interaction. They enjoy being part of groups and make excellent team members. The problem comes when an organization undertakes abrupt change that starts to make people uncomfortable, breaks apart those affiliative bonds, key team members start leaving and it feels as though a previously tight-knit group starts breaking apart.

People driven by Security look for continuity, consistency and predictability in their job, work, and pay. They are driven by guarantees and may prefer to stay with the same company, or in the same position or department, for the long haul. High security people often get anxious over change. And rapid change, or highly destructive/disruptive change, just isn’t their thing.

How do you know if your culture employs a preponderance of Affiliation and Security-driven people? Look at what seems to motivate your employees. If they prize teamwork, social contact with colleagues, and lots of face-to-face time, there’s a good chance they have a high Affiliation drive. And if they generally look before they leap, get anxious amidst ambiguity and prefer clearly-defined jobs and projects, they likely have a high Security drive.

What happens if your employees are risk-averse, driven by Security and Affiliation, and yet you still need to initiate a significant change? Well, you’re going to have to make the change. But these two warning signs tell you that you are probably going to need to spend a little extra time and effort helping people navigate their anxiety and discomfort. And these signs tell you that if you want your change effort to move really quickly, you will want to give yourself as much of a head start as you possibly can.