Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Consider the Stress You Cause Employees Before Changing Everything

Image via Moshimochi/

The federal government is a fantastic example of a diverse and complicated organization challenged by the daunting task of constant change.  This change carries consequences that are misunderstood and, worse, often ignored. How do you cope?

Go to the source.  Deeply rooted in our instinctual behavior is a predisposition to “attach to” or “lean on” objects both tangible (like an office space) and intangible (like a business process) that provide support and security.  This natural instinct begins at birth and never goes away. The objects we “attach to” or “lean on” evolve as we grow older.  As adults, the objects are often related to our workplace and might include a specific technology, a unique leadership style or an organizational structure.  This can be any object in your work environment that enables individual employee to successfully and efficiently complete daily tasks.

Monitor the disruption.  Organizational change often disrupts our relationship with and dependence on these objects, resulting in an instinctual response. If an alternate support mechanism is not introduced to the individual or group during a period of transition, the result is heightened organizational dysfunction.  This will increase the probability of failure for the change initiative and, ultimately, decrease the collective performance of the organization.  

A few years ago I was working with a client on integrating a new technology.  The change strategy failed to consider the individual loss of security caused by retiring the old system and implementing the new one. Employees were unsettled, suddenly absent a key system used to carry out daily tasks.  We discovered the failure, which was a foundational failure of our implementation strategy, a few weeks later and implemented a new education/training program that included more involvement by senior leadership. 

Implement a mitigation strategy.  In the example above, the reactive mitigation techniques reassured the employees, redefined the application and retroactively provided the level of training and leadership involvement that was required to efficiently manage the technology transition.  Although integration took slightly longer than expected, the overall project was successful because the change strategy was adjusted mid-course to account for the unique needs of that organization’s individual employees.  Imagine how smooth the process could be if consideration for the individual employee’s behavioral response is implemented proactively at the beginning of the change initiative.  

Individual employees in organizations require customized support and a well-defined strategy to successfully transition through change.  Given the current fiscal environment and the likelihood that we are seeing the beginning of a new normal, a heightened appreciation and preemptive consideration for individual instincts will increase potential for organizational change success.

Image via Moshimochi/

Dr. Victoria M. Grady is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer at The George Washington University in Washington D.C., Principal Consultant at PivotPoint Business Solutions and co-author of The Pivot Point: Success in Organizational Change.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.