I recently talked to Jeremy, a staff member whose organization is changing from one type of work structure to another. Prior to the change, each work unit in the organization made recommendations on how the allocation of work in their area, who should do the work, and the timelines that should apply. According to Jeremy, the recommendations were well thought out and developed through extensive individual and group meetings within each of the work units. Once completed, the recommendations were forward to the Rebecca, the senior manager responsible for reviewing all the recommendations and determining how best to incorporate them in the new structure.
Everything seemed to work fine until Rebecca began informing the work units of her decisions. According to Jeremy, Rebecca’s decisions ignored many of his work unit’s recommendations with no explanation why. When he went to his unit manager to find out on what basis Rebecca was making her decisions, his manager replied “I don’t know”. People in Jeremy’s unit were perplexed, confused, and upset. They felt betrayed and there was a substantial increase in gossiping and complaining about Rebecca. Some people even quit their jobs.
Change leaders like Rebecca have to make tough decisions and are accountable for those decisions. But Rebecca could have reduced the damage both to her reputation and the future receptivity of people to change if she had engaged in understanding conversations with people prior to her decisions and closure conversations after.