Introduction by Dave Fleck, Editor

In today’s demanding work environment, it is important that managers understand how to identify and successfully respond to situations which may indicate that people are experiencing change overload. How people respond to change overload and the stress that it can cause is unique to each individual. Management’s sensitivity to these concepts and how an individual uniquely responds to overload combined with an awareness of environmental situations that may trigger it are vital to managing today.

Introducing Karen Grove, PhD

Karen Grove, PhD, Vice President and Practice Leader, Strategy, Business Architecture and Change Realization with Center for Organizational Success, has been working with these concepts for a number of years and her doctoral thesis is in this area. Karen is also a master certified coach and trainer in the area of developing personal resilience.

Awareness and Coaching on Change Overload by Karen Grove, PhD

The following diagram is presented as a way to recognize the behavioral symptoms and impacts of change overload*. It associates the “Degree of Dysfunction” on the “Y” axes with the “Behavioral Symptoms – Demand Overload” on the “X” axes.

Change Dysfunction Graph

Understanding “Future Shock”

“Future Shock” occurs when associates have reached the point where they can no longer adapt to any further changes without displaying dysfunctional behavior. Future Shock results in reduced efficiencies/productivity and quality in personal and professional life.

Key Points for Understanding

  • When our capability, (our ability and willingness) is greater than the dangers or opportunities posed by the change, then the change is perceived to be positive because we can exert some influence/control over the outcome.
  • When our capability is less than the perceived danger/opportunity of the challenge then the change is perceived to be negative because we have little to no ability to influence/control the outcome.
  • Whether a change is perceived as positive or negative, an individual must still assimilate or adapt to the change which consumes the individual’s cognitive, emotional and physical energy. Whether the change is accepted or rejected, adaptation takes place. Whether one initiates the change or responds to change, adaptation takes place.
  • People have their own unique capacity to manage or adapt to change.
  • The challenge of change is that change is occurring at a faster rate, with greater volume and complexity than ever before.
  • Future shock is that point in time when people can no longer adapt to change without displaying dysfunctional behavior.
  • Dysfunctional behavior ranges from a minor irritation to major health problems and violence.
  • Future Shock usually occurs because of the aggregate impact of several changes.
  • Our society has increased its capacity to manage change over the decades and centuries; however the speed of the demands placed upon us has surpassed our increased capacity to adapt to changes.

Key Points to Understand as a Coach

  • Assess if the associate is displaying dysfunctional behavior and where associate is on the dysfunction scale.
  • If an associate is exhibiting mid-level to high dysfunction, recommend professional help (EAP, professional counseling, etc.).
  • If an associate is exhibiting low to mid-level dysfunction, facilitate an exploratory discussion with the associate. The discussion should enable the associate to talk through their perspective and clarify for the manager answers to the following questions:
  • What are the current changes that are draining their energy?
  • Where are they emotionally with current changes (negative or positive)?
  • How much energy is being used for each change [scale of 1(low) to 10(high)]?
  • How much control does the associate have over each specific change?
  • Is each change or task in alignment with the associate’s view of the future state?
  • What priority / importance does each change have with respect to this associate?
  • What additional resources does the associate need to be successful in their position?
  • Is anyone else able to help the associate manage any of the changes/tasks?
  • Is anyone else able to take on responsibility for certain changes or tasks (as appropriate)?

Developing a Matrix

All of the above can be mapped out on a matrix, providing a visual for the coach and associate. With this visual, the coach and associate can look at opportunities for:

  • integrating changes
  • looking for synergies among changes
  • eliminating some changes/tasks
  • identifying key tasks & priorities
  • reducing time spent on low-priority changes
  • getting help from others
  • planning balance between personal and professional life other additional support as needed

What would your workplace be like if you could dramatically improve company performance while at the same time create an environment of trust, respect, teamwork, enthusiasm, balance and reduced stress? The answer is you’d most likely have a fully engaged workforce where people enjoy coming to work and contributing to their own success as well as the company’s success.

In closing

Please feel free to write or call at no obligation for our assistance in developing an approach to create the change you are seeking.

Dave Fleck