4 Brain-Friendly Ways to Manage Change in the Workplace

Change is good... you go first!  Why are people so resistant to change even when we know the current way of doing things isn't working?  
Leadership is about leading, and sometimes that means leading people through change. People may chuckle at the old saying that the only constant in business is change, but implementing change is rarely fun or funny.  Resistance can range from avoidance or passive/aggressive behavior all the way to outright defiance and hostility.
Prior to making any kind of organizational change that will affect others, it’s important for leaders to identify not just what the specific changes include, but also who the changes will impact and how they might perceive the change. When change (especially what could be perceived as anegative change) is forced upon people without helping them understand why the change is necessary, what the change includes and how their jobs/work will be affected, the uncertainty and unknowns create anxiety.  People push back because the brain processes the anxiety as fear and engages the fear/threat center.  
But, as complex as the brain is, we have the power to normalize resistance to change. If you are introducing change in your organization or if you’re on the receiving end of proposed change, a few simple tips can make it more brain-friendly.
1. Make the unfamiliar familiar. If you show people two picture of themselves - one an accurate representation and the other a reversed image - people will find the reversed image more appealing. Why? Because it's more familiar.  It's the image they see in the mirror every day.
The brain instinctively processes uncertainty as a threat. Anything that is more familiar is inherently less threatening.  Recognize that the brain is wired to resist change. To reduce apprehension and increase a willingness to try something new, focus on clearly and consistently communicating the change and the intended rewards. 
2. Invite people to create change. No one likes forced change, but most of us embrace change we create ourselves. From a neuroscience perspective, at the moment when someone chooses change, brain scans show a tremendous amount of activity as insight develops and new neural connections are formed. in addition, the brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters like dopamine and adrenaline that create a natural "high" positively associated with the change experience. Rather than dictating change, invite people to participate in creating change.
3. Keep it simple. The prefrontal cortex can deal well with only a few concepts at one time. Help people understand the purpose of the change as well as the benefits with two or three key points.   More than that will most likely activate the amygdala and set off a chain reaction of stress reactions.  
4. Don't "sugar coat" the sell.  It might be tempting to present the change with overly optimistic outcomes or unrealistic advantages. Don't do it.  The prefrontal cortex is always on guard for signals of danger - including deception. When it senses something too good to be true, it triggers the survival brain to be on high alert and puts the thinking brain on pause until the anxiety passes.

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