Change ? How exhausting !

Change for a better climate

Did you join the crowd to march for a more ambitious climate policies ? Do you have kids who skipped school for the good cause ? How far will you go to save the planet ?

A friend of mine thinks this is a tough question.  Years ago, he bought a tiny apartment not far from Cannes.  Now and then he hops on over for the weekend - by plane, of course.  He knows this is not the way to do our climate a favour so he pays a self-imposed CO2 contribution on top of his ticket.  But one day, he read that this isn’t a climate-friendly solution at all.  Should he sell his apartment ? ‘ These weekends give me so much energy - it’s my way to recharge ‘, he sighs.

Change through the New Way of Working (NWoW)

I have quite some experience with organisations who made the switch to NWoW.  Generally speaking, this change has a lot going for it.  Except for one aspect : employees are supposed to pick out their work-space linked to the task they perform.

Many gorgeous ‘activity linked’ work spaces are the pride and joy of the architect in charge, which adds a certain sadness to the fact that these spaces  are rarely filled with people.  Colleagues still love to huddle together with those whose company they enjoy - regardless of the task they happen to be performing.  Nobody likes to drag him/her self to the coffee corner or adjoining ‘lounge’ to have a simple chat.   That takes away the spontaneity of the moment.

Is it a need ? Or is it a strategy ?

What’s the link between the two stories ?

Both help you see the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘strategy’.

A ‘need’, as non-violent communication points out, is that which we truly cannot do without.

Unfulfilled needs make us angry or sad.   To fulfil a need we take action : we develop strategies.  In reality, we often confound ‘strategy’ and ‘need’.  I don’t really ‘need’ a glass of red wine in the evening.  However, the thing I cannot do without, is the possibility to unwind and my glass of wine is a strategy to fulfil that need.  My friend’s apartment is also a strategy, although he is convinced he “needs” it.

The difference between a need and a strategy helps to understand why people react the way they do when changes in their professional life arise.

Everyone comes to work with three basic needs : autonomy, connectivity and competence.

1. You want to have the psychological freedom to decide how  act and at the same time you don’t want to be under too much pressure.

2. You want to have meaningful relationships with others, know that you are cared for and care for others.

3. You want to understand your environment, you want a certain amount of control over it and you want to be able to explore it.

I do want to change my strategy …

Over the course of a career, people develop various strategies to fulfil their needs.  If they manage  to increasingly succeed in doing so, they are functioning better and their well-being at work goes up.

People adjust these strategies spontaneously as their life evolves : a change in your family situation can make that you need to leave work at a different time, or you may be more (or less) inclined to have a drink with colleagues after work.

When an organisation implements a change, it obliges its employees to review some of its strategies.  However, an obligatory adjustment is usually not  the thing that gets much applause.  In fact, even very small changes can have a negative effect.   For instance, changing someone’s space or seat can be enough to create a feeling of discomfort.

As an organisation you have no choice but to give people time and space to look for an adapted strategy.  The fact that they must leave old ways behind, is a loss and this loss first needs to be processed. Only then can they try out a different strategy.

Luckily, each need can be fulfilled in more than one way.  There are always other strategies possible.  My friend would certainly regret his plane trips to Cannes, but that doesn’t mean that he will never again get a chance to re-charge his batteries.

… as long as I can fulfil my needs.

Let’s admit that some changes impact your basic needs.

The New Way of Working will probably fulfil your need for autonomy but it might make it harder to fulfil your need for connectivity.

Managers and consultant often take the easy way out by stating that you simply need to change physical contacts with virtual ones or by emphasising that an activity based work-space enhances efficiency. It would be so much better to acknowledge the fact that connectivity in such an environment is really hard to come by and to help people in finding new ways to obtain this connectivity.

When an organisation thinks about introducing a change, it needs to ask itself the following questions :

1. is this change answering the basic needs of autonomy, connectivity and competence ?

2. how can we help people to develop new strategies in their changing environment ?

From victim to active player

You might want to ask yourself the following question : does this change impact a need or a strategy ?

Indra Partners accompanies managers and employees in a workshop that addresses this question on a deeper level.  We also teach participants tools and techniques to overcome their first reaction towards the change and how to move from victim to an active player in any change process.

With all this said, let me pick up the phone to ask my friend to rent out his apartment for one more week-end …  before his conscious gets the better of him and he actually sells it.  I, for one, have no problem taking the train !



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