Have you ever listened to a leader and thought, “Did they really say that?” The below quotes are real things leaders have said when announcing changes at work.
Read, cringe, and learn.
“The train is leaving the station, whether you’re on it or not.”
“I know this change feels uncomfortable at the moment, but trust me, the next phase will be a lot worse…”
We have heard several versions of these statements over the years. They scare and demotivate people.
Instead, when announcing change, it is important to listen, show empathy, and give encouragement. In our “Overcoming Fear” section in Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change (page 127), we give some examples:
• “I hear your points. I understand what you are saying. I invite you to give it a chance.”
• “As I mentioned, we did our homework, and the facts show ____________.
• “Also, we have put ____________ into place to support our success.”
• “I hear you. Let’s convene after milestone one to reassess.”
“I know this is not what you want. Just stick it out and I will get you a promotion/raise next year…” – Executive in Pharmaceutical Industry
“Don’t worry – this will not affect you…”
“We haven’t laid anybody off yet!” – The following month, he laid off 10% of the workforce.
Most work change is personal. People fear the impact it will have on them and their career. But that doesn’t mean you should make commitments you can’t be sure to keep. If you want to reassure your most valuable talent, our section on “Overcoming Fear in Organizational Structure Changes” on page 37, offers suggestions:
• “I understand your concerns. You are a key contributor and I will do all that I can to keep you at this company. Expect to hear from me by (date) with: (more information, a formal offer, a new job description, as appropriate).”
Whereas with a middle or low performer, you might say:
• “Based on my experience in similar situations, I agree that your concerns about staff reductions are legitimate. I am not expecting anyone will be laid off, but it never hurts to update your resume and keep in touch with your network.”
• “Don’t forget, there are plenty of potential opportunities for you to explore and connect with the network that exists within the company.”
“Just suck it up!”
“I have never met a more dysfunctional group than you people.” – Company President to senior executive team after objections arose about changing strategy.
Change creates stress and makes people upset. It’s not productive to be insensitive or broadly negate employee concerns. Change is easier when you actively listen and support your team member. We give examples in our “Coaching Around Emotions” section on page 55:
• “You are right, there is a lot to do and change can feel overwhelming.”
• “Tell me what you have on your plate? Maybe I can help.”
• “Are there other things, perhaps outside of work, that are getting in your way?
• “What else can I do to support you?”
For more tips on avoiding such unproductive statements, check out our book Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change (McGraw Hill).