The High Cost of Change Fatigue

November 1, 2023

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The High Cost of Change Fatigue

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Change Fatigue

The company was facing challenges, so the leadership team decided change was needed.

  • They would implement a new operating system across the entire company, which included multiple locations around the world. It would affect tens of thousands of employees and millions of customers.
  • They would consolidate several office buildings into one new and bigger location, and they took it on as a customized building project from the ground up.
  • They would seek a merger with a major company and former competitor, with expansive growth as the goal.
  • They would increase production to record levels, even when the cost of inputs was excessive.

And they made all these changes in the same time period.

What they failed to consider was the true cost of change.

The operating system required extensive customization and extended timelines, to the tune of millions of dollars. The building costs rose to exponential levels; the merger fell through; and the product costs, reflective of inputs, made them unsellable.

What they also failed to consider was the true cost of change when it came to their people.

All of a sudden, employees were faced with possibilities of losing their jobs to a possible merger, having to move to be near the new building location, needing to learn a new and very complex system, and increasing production, all at the same time.

From all aspects, it proved to be too much change at one time, and the company and its employees all paid the price.

The world today is like that, with changes coming at every angle. In recent years, the pace of change has accelerated to levels that even those who embrace change are starting to say, “Enough.” Burnout, stress, disengagement – these are reflective of times of high change.

This is Change Fatigue.

Change Considerations

How can you, as a leader in any capacity, help your people navigate the changes?

Consider the Financials

And then consider again. What you initially think a change will cost will be multiple times that. Factor in the unexpected and possible collateral issues. If you have the margin, and if it will make a difference in the long run, then it makes sense to pursue. But if the margins are tight already, a rush to change could seal the company’s fate.

Consider the Resources

In times of excessive external change, internal goals may need to be fewer, tighter in focus, and more profitable. Business as normal may need to be redefined.

Planning ahead for change is also key. Those who did so in recent years have been able to weather the supply chain shortages while keeping the production going, albeit to adjusted levels. Those who didn’t plan ahead suffered considerably – some to a point of no return. They key is to always have margins when it comes to resources, and to operate aggressively, but maintain those margins.

Consider the People

How much can your team realistically accomplish in a quarter? Aggressive goals are good and promote engagement. But impossible goals only serve to frustrate a team and ultimately cost the company more. This is even more true in times of widespread change.

While change is good and inevitable, and there are times when changes must be made swiftly, also stop to consider your people. From their perspective, how much change are they navigating at the current time? Do they have the margin to accommodate more?

Much like decision fatigue, change fatigue can be a definite factor in the workforce.

Many companies in recent years have been in a cycle of constant and necessary pivoting. What many didn’t realize was that their people were also having to pivot, not only at the professional level, but also at the personal and social levels as well. The impact affected the economy, companies, public service systems, school systems, social structure, and homes. All were affected, and all at the same time, essentially shaking the foundations for everyone.

Business leaders, in desperate attempts to run their businesses, were faced with a new dilemma – a serious shortage of employees and a workforce of quiet quitters. Their people simply were overwhelmed with changes on so many horizons.

Change Types

Change is inevitable. It happens, and sometimes it happens at an unprecedented pace.

Passive Change

Passive change includes things that are outside your control and realm of influence. These you must acknowledge and adjust where needed to navigate them. If you cannot change them, you must navigate through them. In this type of change, you are the guide for your team, the example of leadership. They do not expect you to fix these changes, but they do need you to lead them through them.

Active Change

As a leader, you do have realms of influence where you can proactively implement change. This is where you will want to incorporate the considerations above. Pace yourself and pace your people. Communicate clearly. Help them understand why the changes are needed and how it will benefit them, the company, and the customers being served.

At both personal and professional levels, you have those who are looking to you to help them navigate the passive changes and implement the active changes. How you do this is to consider the financials, the resources, and the people who can make it happen. And then manage the pace of change from those perspectives.

Change Checkup

Pause momentarily to take this change checkup:

  • How many quarter-size goals is my team working on this quarter? (A normal range would be 1-5.)
  • What types of changes are my team members facing, internal to the company, but also in other areas of their lives?
  • How can I level the load of change?
  • How can I adjust to provide margin with regard to financials, resources, and people?
  • What changes am I personally and professionally navigating right now? Do any need to be governed or tabled for a better time?
  • What are the possible “passive changes” ahead that I need to consider?
  • What “active changes” are ahead, beyond the current quarter?

Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after executive coach, mentor, consultant, and speaker worldwide. Deb is well versed in business operations and in the importance of asking key questions most business leaders won’t ask themselves. She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, high performance team building and effective communication. She has a passion for leading people to discover and maximize their strengths as well as those of fellow team members, while offering advanced strategies to achieve high performance. Deb is the perfect fit if you’re ready to take your leadership and impact to the next level!