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As companies, governments and not-for-profit entities try to become leaner and more efficient, duties often shift from one person to another. From an academic perspective, this sounds quite logical. From a personal perspective, it may create quite a different story.

The question is, “Why does something so simple as shifting duties bring with it the potential to cause so many problems in the workplace?” This article addresses this question. [VIDEO]

The Mind

The Issue

The mind automatically questions ‘why’ as soon as you begin the conversation to ask a person to relinquish or take on new duties. I know this can be annoying but it is an automatic reply, thus it is best to prepare your response in advance. If you are prepared you will not be annoyed by the question or surprised by the air of suspicion that your request generates.

The Preparation

As you prepare for the question, you will realize that it is essential to nudge the person from their current perspective towards your own. If you expect them to accept their need to shift to this new requirement automatically, it may not happen.

If the idea that a shift in duties may occur and they have time to process it, the chances of successful implementation increases.

Ask yourself questions such as those listed below before deciding how you will handle the situation.

Management Video Series

Management would be so much easier if individual personalities and preferences didn’t get in the way of progress and change. Sometimes the issues emerge because difficult people work with us. Other times our approach is what affects the outcomes.

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  1. Is this a small or big change to a person’s role?
  2. Based on your knowledge of this person, how might their ego react to the change?
  3. Will this change influence their status?
  4. Will others perceive this change in duties as a promotion, demotion or lateral move?
  5. How could others be introduced to the change to protect their self-esteem and sense of self worth?
  6. Will this person need to understand the big picture first or will they only want to focus on their own role?
  7. What would this person perceive as support and how would it influence what I say, when I say it and how I behave after the initial dialogue?

As soon as you have looked at the situation from the receiver’s perspective, think about your own true feelings. If you agree with the changes, your non-verbal communication will be very different from the way it would be if you think the changes are absurd. When you are clear on your own beliefs about the change, practice, practice and practice what you will say and how you will say it.

The 7-Point Process to Change

It is important to analyze the impact or the potential impacts prior to delivering the message. One of the things I suggest in my coaching practice is that leaders consider a seven-point process to the change.

The first part of the process is to discuss the potential of the change, to see the person’s reaction, to see the resistance, to help them process and discuss – just in a general conversation – what may come about.

The second step would be to talk to them about the change and how there is no impact on their value to the organization.

The third is to give them time to process what is being said, and just allow them to speak their truth.

Sometimes when people just get the opportunity to express their truth, that helps the processing speed up. Then they will say, “Oh yeah, that’s not as bad as I thought. I think I’m OK with it.”

The fourth would be to look at what the transition really means. Is it really taking away something from them? What is it doing to them? Are they losing status? Are they being removed from the inner circle? Let them talk about the things that are near and dear to themselves, and also attached to their identity.

Then we can move to the stage of, okay, here we are, here is the change, how can we do this smoothly?

“What can we do to make this work for you?”

Is it that you are going to lose your office and going to have to shift to a different type of office or a cubicle? Is it that you are going to have less people reporting to you? Is it that you are going to feel that you have no duties left at all and you are being pushed out the door?

So you help them find a new role, a new purpose, and a new sense of value.

As you move up the stages, by the time they get to the point of actually making the transition, they have spoken their truth, they’ve had time to analyze the new situation, they understand they are still valued, and they understand that nothing is really going to change for them except their duties… so there is a sense of purpose, plus you have identified all the things to them that’s important.

I have seen people say, “If I can just take my chair with me.” That is important to them. And someone else says, “As long as I’m close to a bathroom, I’m OK.”

Knowing what creates a sense of value in the other person is critical, and it is different for every person.

The Impact

If a person feels as if they have worked hard to ‘get where they are’, they will be hurt if they think you are removing duties and ultimately demoting them. If they perceive you as a friend, it will hurt even more.

It is vital to keep the conversation going without changing your position. It is about listening and helping that person understand that the change is not affecting their worth to the organization or their personal self-worth.

We all need to feel that we are important, that we are making a contribution and that we are valued. Therefore, it is important to know at least three ways to confirm for the person whose duties has changed that they are worthy individuals and important to the entity.

Change will occur and it may be the only constant. The key is to remember that in many cases, how it is handled is more important than the actual change itself.