The Psychology of Change
Melissa Summer, Content Marketing and PR Manager at The Myers-Briggs Company
Most people want their businesses to grow. Or at least their bottom line to grow. But there’s an important part of business growth that’s often overlooked – change.
You have to change to be able to grow. To transform. To adapt.
And it’s rarely easy.
Let’s take an unspecified project as an example.
All the plans have been signed off, the budget agreed to and the resources allocated. The work has started, everyone knows what they’re doing. So far so good.
Then, a change occurs. Maybe the delivery time has been halved. Or a senior stakeholder has changed their mind about the direction. Or the scope has increased without extra resources or time. Sound familiar?
Point is, this change will provoke very different reactions in people. Some will be furious. Others will roll with it, and there’ll be varying degrees in between.
This is just one example. What about bigger, more structural changes like new leadership, new employees, redundancies or company-wide new technology?
Change is a part of business growth. And people react to it in very different ways.
Did you know that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail or don’t result in sustained change?
How do you – as a manager or team leader – help people work with change?
How do you keep productivity and performance up so the project moves forward?
This is where psychology – specifically, the psychology of change – plays a vital role.
With a little insight into psychology and personality you can better arm your business, and your employees, to embrace change. Imagine how much productive your employees could be if change in managers, change in projects, change in budgets and direction and culture all happened more smoothly.
Navigating change is easier when you have psychological insight.
One of the ways to get that psychological insight is by using scientifically-validated and reliable personality assessments to measure the psychological differences and similarities between people.
This can help you and your employees understand:
- Why some people are excited by change while other find it threatening
- Why some people want to know all the details and steps involved in a change and others only want the bigger picture
- Why plans and timelines are so important to some people while other people think flexibility is key to change
- How we can make sure everyone has what they need to be the most comfortable with change
- What are some of the most common problems that arise when implementing change
- How can we avoid setting up resistance in employees and managers when it comes to change
You can probably think of a few of your direct reports who might fall into one of the above categories.
All personality types have certain strengths when it comes to change. They also have their blind spots when it comes to change.
One of the advantages of psychological insight when it comes to organizational change is that you’re aware of your own biases.
We’re all biased towards our own personality types. After all, we’ve spent our whole lives with ourselves. And while empathy is key to emotional intelligence, being able to define and describe another point of view (the personality preference that you don’t have) allows for a better, more complete feeling of empathy. You not only think of yourself in someone else’s shoes, but you’re also given the binoculars that tell you how things might look differently through that person’s eyes.
During any type of change, knowing what different people need to successfully navigate that change is essential to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
Even if you don’t know each individual’s specific type on your team, making sure you’re providing enough support for both preferences is a great start.
However, as an executive (or even a manager) knowing your direct report’s preferences is a powerful way for you to better understand and support them in all their efforts.
When it comes to change, some people want a clear plan of action. They’d prefer to have a set of targets defined, with a time frame for each target to be achieved. They also feel more comfortable with change when the priorities are stated and set. Often they see change as a surprise and want to bring it to completion and move forward.
In contrast, other people want to know that the plan is open-ended. They’d rather have general parameters than a set agenda.
To them, change is often exciting because it’s an opportunity for flexibility and re-evaluation. Change to them can be seen as a large course correction from the original plan.
Imagine that all of the executives at your organization were the type of people that wanted plans set in stone and didn’t care for flexibility or keeping options open.
What would the day-to-day at the company look like?
And when it was time for organizational change, what information would those executives prefer to share and how might they share it? What about the employees who didn’t share the executive’s personality preferences? How might they resist the change initiatives if that project was only presented from this one type of viewpoint?
This is just one example of how psychological insight can improve organizational change initiatives.
Want to learn more about the psychology of change? Check out these resources:
- Webinar: How to adapt to constant change especially in the workplace
- Download: Psychology of Change in the Hybrid Workplace
- Blog: Were you asked if you wanted to go back into the office?