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Why Do We Fear Change at Work?

Consider this. Our skin cells rejuvenate every two to four weeks. The liver (the body’s detoxifier) is renewing its cells every 150 – 500 days. Cells that line the stomach and intestines regenerate every five days. I could go on with these fun facts but I’m not a doctor and anyway, the point I am making is simply this:

As humans, our bodies are in a state of constant change – just on a physical level alone! So if we are so used to experiencing constant change . . . why do we fear change at work so much?

When the rumour mill starts and the jungle drums begin to beat that there is about to be a change, it creates uncertainty. This is a direct connection to the Safety need, which is a Basic Need in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

We feel unsafe, insecure. We fear uncertainty, we fear losing control.

As humans, we like to understand what's happening. We form routines and habits that enable us to control our world and validate our existence. For most people, this validation is especially important in a work environment. So, once we have decided what works for us, as individuals, it's natural for us to want to keep things as they are.

If changes are pushed onto us by external sources, we risk losing that control. Those cherished routines and habits go out of the window, and with them, that validation. Our sense of self.

And we worry. We worry that things might not work out. That it will all go wrong. We fear things like failure, being made to look silly. We fear criticism and being told off. We think, "what if I try to change and I do it badly? What if I do it badly and lose my job?"

If workplace changes are not communicated effectively, it doesn’t just create uncertainty. There's also the possibility that people get the wrong idea about what's expected of them. And of course this leads to people worrying that they will have more work to do, or that they won't have the skills to work effectively in the new world.

Importantly: all these fears are valid.

And that's why you can't manage those fears in a standard, one-size-fits-all way.

In the next blog post I’ll be looking at how to help people overcome their fear of change by using the power of creativity and . . . let’s be real here, a little bit of weirdness.

By helping people to get creative, and find their own catalyst for change, we can help them to open up and manage their fears in the way that works for them.


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