PositivePeople July 8, 2015 No Comments

Leading your team through change

Change is inevitable, and as businesses adapt to rapidly changing markets it is more certain and more frequent than ever before. But how do you effectively lead your team through a restructure, relocation or major system or process change? Almost as certain as the need for change itself is the likelihood that you will encounter some form of resistance.

We embrace many massive personal changes in life like moving homes, marriage and new jobs. But these are elective changes that we’ve chosen for ourselves. Imposed change can bring about quite a different reaction.

This might be due to:

  • Loss of control
  • Fear of losing our job, status or responsibilities
  • Having to deal with ambiguity and additional workload during the transition
  • Being pushed out of our comfort zone resulting in concerns about whether we have the right skills or experience to be successful in the new environment
  • Loss of things that are valued

These are some of the reasons that people even with relatively minor changes proposed to their job can strongly resist.

To successfully negotiate change as a leader you must seek to understand and address the different emotional impact on each person in your team.

Most of us will move through a cycle of denial, resistance, exploration of options and information and finally commitment or acceptance of the change. Recognising where each member of your team is at will help you to move them through the process.

  • Denial – allow people time and space to let things sink in, provide as much information as possible and clarify why you are making the change o
  • Resistance – encourage involvement, provide channels for feedback, keep communicating and reinforcing your key messages
  • Exploration – share the progress that has been made and what needs to happen next o
  • Commitment / Acceptance – measure and celebrate successes, set short and long-term goals and focus on embedding the change and continuing to make improvements

If you’re still facing negativity and resistance, encourage your team to focus their energy only on what they can change or influence and then take action. Set up a session to discuss their concerns and divide these concerns into three groups:

  • What they can change or control themselves
  • What they can influence
  • What is outside of their control or influence

Follow this up by brainstorming what actions they can take to change or influence the issues from these categories. You can also talk about strategies for letting go or moving on from what cannot be controlled or influenced.

Lastly – look after people impacted by change, and look after yourself!

In restructuring processes, it’s important to check in with your team regularly. Offer them support and encourage them to seek support from others in their network. This could include family, friends, a counselor, careers counselor or financial adviser. There are a number of government-funded organisations and resources available as well as services your company can access to assist and support your employees.

Remember to:

  • Acknowledge and celebrate the wins – big or small
  • Accept people’s actions and behaviours as their responses to change and don’t take them personally
  • Take care with your own responses
  • Vent when you need to – but to the right person o
  • Take care of yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep and making time for exercise and relaxation


In any change or restructuring process, it is essential that you follow proper HR processes.


Here at Positive People we have a proven track record in managing successful change processes that meet legislative obligations and support you to help your team feel respected, supported, involved and informed throughout the process. If we can help you with a change process, please call us on 09 445-1077.

Managing the hostile employee

He is a workhorse who knows his stuff inside out. Customers and suppliers alike respect his commitment to their needs. He is knowledgeable and will go the extra mile to help them, always. He is respected for the work he does and for the value he passes on to customers.

Sound like an ideal employee?

Actually no, because he terrorises some of those within the organisation with his aggressive, righteous, threatening and intimidatory behaviour.

It goes something like this:

The office is quiet and everyone is busy at their work stations. Out the blue comes the barking “WHY are you doing that? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times before, DON’T DO IT THAT WAY!”

A shake of the head and he’s gone.

The team sit in silence pretending this didn’t happen. The embarrassed victim looks down and tries to keep her composure but is obviously upset. She turns a bright red, shuffles her desk things nervously and then quickly scuttles out of the office. Her colleague quietly leaves and follows her. The regular routine of tears and angst follow.

As a responsible employer, what do you do?

This is a technically competent, committed employee who adds great value to the company. You don’t particularly want to upset him. Whilst
you may have pretended to ignore the incident and glossed over this type of unacceptable behaviour, the whispers around the office were enough to appear on your radar and you know you should have done something. It was just too hard! And, it is true, the guy is very difficult to confront.

The first thing to know is that you cannot leave this situation to stand as it does. Health and Safety requirements dictate that this
situation is addressed. Leaving it because it is too hard won’t do. There is a responsibility under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to ensure that you provide a safe work environment for all your team, and allowing this type of behaviour to exist is contrary to that. It also undermines the values and culture that you might be trying to create and maintain in your business.

It is an absolute non-negotiable that anyone in the business should not have to endure aggressive, threatening, abusive, intimidating, bullying or harassing behaviour from anyone in the organisation.

So, what are the solutions to this all too frequent problem?

Starting from the basics, within your foundation employment documents, there needs to be a Code of Conduct and a Health and Safety policy that clearly sets out the organisation’s behavioural expectations of employees. Bullying and Sexual Harassment policies also play their part in
setting standards of acceptable behaviour. Having appropriate documents properly established at the outset of employment provides the correct reference and starting point for the behaviour that you expect from employees. Reinforced by your Values and Culture Statement, you have a solid foundation from which to manage behaviour within the business.

Having these fundamental building blocks in place allows you to reinforce your behavioural (and performance) expectations at Performance
Reviews as appropriate. Additionally these can be re-stated, as required, at regular individual One-on-one meetings, Team Meetings and at State of Nation communication sessions. In this way you are regularly emphasising the importance of good behaviour at both an individual and group level, and keeping your Values top of mind.

For most, these communication channels are enough to set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. However, it can often be that the hostile employee does not see their own behaviour as unacceptable and is simply blind in their righteousness, and views the achievement of the task as paramount, irrespective of the ructions that may result, if they even notice them.

If unacceptable behaviour does manifest itself, then the offending employee needs to be quickly brought into line. This usually only requires
a quiet, but very firm early word outlining the specific instance of unacceptable behaviour, drawing attention to the Code of Conduct and set of Values, accompanied by a reminder that any further instances will not be tolerated and will most likely result in the application of the disciplinary procedure.

Simply, the hostile team member needs to know very clearly and very early that whatever they are doing will not be tolerated. Problems with a hostile employee often fester because the behaviour is left and because the behaviour comes and goes, everyone hopes that it will simply “go away”. Unfortunately this passive inaction just encourages more of the same, and it is often the more junior staff who take the brunt of the bullying, threats or discourtesy. To condone such behaviour not only kills the positive culture in the business but is against the law. It is also manifestly unfair on the victims.

Anger and other forms of intimidatory behaviour in the workplace have no place and the responsibility to manage the hostile employee
rests fairly and squarely with the employee’s Manager who has daily contact and sees the unacceptable behaviour in operation. Sweeping it under the carpet or ignoring it is not an option. The Manager has to front up and deal with it.

Is your business condoning bad behaviour?

Positive People has a history of assisting businesses set up effective individual and group communication channels and policies to address this type of difficulty. Give us a call to talk through any issue you may have.