The shock of the new

Change is scary for lots of people in all organisations. It involves loss – of what has gone, of a bit of continuity and certainty, of familiarity.  If you look up change management on business websites you will quite often find reference to The Bereavement Curve, or something like it.  That is because change does feel like a major loss to most people.

There is a major problem in times of constraint, which makes this far more problematic in my view.  People may disguise their feelings, or bury them because of recessionary fears.  They, quite literally don’t want to put their heads above the parapet, for fear of being shot down or singled out for the next round of cost cutting.

Bad employers may exploit this.  Governments may do (public sector pay freezes, as a simple example).  This short termism may well come back to haunt the perpetrators.  Both in the ballot box and in an inability to recruit high quality people in the upturn. And rightly so, in my mind.


People do have two contracts, as you know.  Their contract of employment, and the Psychological contract.  The second is far more elusive and dictates what is usually called ‘discretionary behaviour’.  Simply, if people feel good about their organisation, then they may put more effort in.


One of the hardest things of all about any change though is we have to realise that we cannot change the past.  It really is no use bemoaning the passing of a process, system, client or colleague.  We can only learn from the past and change the future.

So the soft skill here?  It’s about supporting each other.  Listening, cajoling, imagining, creating new ways of doing and being.  And doing this as teams, as groups, as lunch flies, as friends.

We are all in it together if we choose to be.

(Picture is from my friends at The Trainers Library – always good!)


Don’t know if you caught a piece in the news yesterday – A vicar in Huddersfield, called Rev Richard Steel.  (Luckily not Steal!).  He had £450 – 45 people – who took the £10 each.  He asked them to go away and invest it – no names, no lists.  Parable of the Talents from the bible, one o three people didn’t invest it, and only returned it – so was consigned to the  outer darkness, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Richard promised he wouldn’t do this.  His experiment will be seen to work if they return with more on Easter Sunday.  I look forward to hearing the result.

But how often would we have that sort of level of trust in our organisations?  It’s the same as delegating an important task or project to someone – and not interfering too much, isn’t it?  Would we get a lot more out of people if we did trust them more?

One of the problems with trust is it is very volatile – abuse it once and you may lose it forever.  I tend to be black and white on this – perhaps too extreme, really.  People (rather than leopards) can change their spots.  It may take you a long time to resurrect it if the loss of trust was your fault.  It’s like trying to roll up a ball of string, and dropping it.  It goes miles before you can stop it, but then you have to start reeling it back in.

It is worth the effort…

The audience (and showroom) trusted my cooking!

Banter or Bullying?

I have been running workshops in recent months all around getting the balance right between Banter and bullying – not letting everyday fun and frivolity spill over into something unwanted.  It has been fascinating.

Yes, on every workshop you may have the occasional person who doesn’t want to know.  But most people started thinking “Do we really need this?”  They all ended by feeling we did – and the biggest problem is it is so difficult to define.  One persons jokiness is another persons vicious verbal assault.

Blood on the carpet? (From my friends at

It’s a bit like sarcasm – and those of us who are big proponents of the skill will always use the excuse that although sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, it is the highest form of intelligence.  But we sometimes fail to recognise the hurt it may cause.

As I said on most of the sessions, the only way to prevent any form of potential annoyance is to keep dead silence in the workplace.  But that could drive us all mad, and would not entice people to come to work!  Banter and humour are the lubrication of everyday life at work.

The problem is that the whole area is grey and amorphous.  The main message was it didn’t really matter what you were meaning as the speaker – if it was perceived as going too far by the recipient, then that needed to be fixed.

That led us to the things we needed to do to make sure any problems were nipped in the bud.  Better communication was the catch-all.  Within that, really simple ideas like apologising, actually saying sorry as quickly and sincerely as possible, was probably as good a starting point as any.  Simple soft skills are often the best ideas of all.