How to Continue to Innovate and Combat Change Fatigue

How to Continue to Innovate and Combat Change Fatigue

Leadership can make all the difference when it comes to workplace change.

Chances are, if you feel like your organization is saturated with change, your Team may be experiencing change fatigue. Change fatigue is a Team’s resistance, passive resignation, apathy, or feelings of being overwhelming when it comes to organizational change. 

According to Gartner, “Employees’ ability to absorb change has plummeted… …The amount of change that the average employee can absorb without becoming fatigued is half of what it was [pre-pandemic].” It’s more vital now than ever to assess your Team’s change fatigue.

We’ve all been there; change fatigue sets in and our Team gets resentful. I’ve seen it in every line of work. Leadership, however, can make all the difference when it comes to workplace change. 

Identifying change fatigue is the first step a leader needs to take. What does change fatigue look like? Complaints increase in frequency, exhaustion, loss of passion, stress, more sick days, cynicism, and lack of trust in leadership. This impacts the organization on so many levels–less productivity, greater turnover, and more missed days. The culture tanks and trust erodes. 

According to a recent HBR article, “too often, organizations simply encourage their employees to be resilient, placing the burden of finding ways to feel better solely on individuals. Leaders need to recognize that change exhaustion is not an individual issue, but a collective one that needs to be addressed at the team and organizational level.”

Action Steps to mitigate change fatigue:

  1. Control what you can control: Fear and discontent crop up when we feel like we have lost control of our current situation. When changes in our workplace occur, we need to encourage our Team to highlight what is within their control and influence. Instead of thinking of change as something happening to you, think of it as you having control over your new learning and this new growth opportunity. Perspective can make a huge difference when change occurs. The Center for Creative Leadership’s David Altman describes change as continual evolution with no endpoint. He goes on to say that we need to think of “change fatigue” as “change energy.” 
  1. Communicate early and often: Bring key stakeholders to the table to discuss upcoming changes and ask for their perspectives and advice. Roll out the change in small, digestible bites. Acknowledge that what you thought was “best” isn’t anymore.  Offer validation to the prior initiative and explain the “why” with the new one. There isn’t a “best” in business anyways; we should always be learning and growing. The moment a company settles, they have already slid behind the competition. 
  1. Trust: Change cannot occur until your Team trusts their leadership and understands the “why” behind the change. That’s the first move. Once the change is in action, give brief surveys and check in often. Be sure to prioritize the changes. Ask your Team to collectively decide which one is the most important and focus on that one. They will have more buy-in if they can help make decisions. Allow for errors. Mistakes will happen. Your team needs to know that you have their back and they are allowed to experiment and make mistakes. Before implementing any change, make sure that your Team has all the resources needed; this includes training, time, and material resources. 
  1. Team-focused: Collective routines have a way of calming your Team as they forge into the unknown. This could be morning coffee, happy hours, consistent meeting times, etc. Routines cultivate a sense of community and foster a sense of organizational buy-in. 

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