2.4 Communicating Change Effectively
The issue is the way in which you sending out too many text messages, waiting in the parking lot for his boss, these don't really come across as professional behaviors. And yeah, she's the boss, so let her talk first, but remember you had to straighten me out about end of day meetings when you first started working for me. Well, because Jason was willing to have this open, honest discussion with Lisa, they are able to move forward together and build a strong professional relationship.
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Hi, Margaret Malleni here and welcome to Communicating Change. And I’m willing to bet that you have probably heard the expression, the only thing constant is change. And what that means is that you really need to be able to be prepared for change and you want to communicate change effectively. Today we’re going to use a story to look at some of the do’s and don’ts of communicating change. So our story begins with Jason and Mark. And Jason has work for Mark for five years. Although they don’t socialize, they really have a strong professional relationship. They genuinely like and trust one another. Now Mark has applied for and accepted a new position. And he will remain with the company but he’s transferring to a different position. And that means that Mark and Jason are no longer going to be working together. Now Mark needs to share his news with Jason, and he will miss working with Jason. And he knows Jason is going to be happy for him, but also a little apprehensive about having to work for somebody different. Before he knows it though, the work day has ended and Mark really wanted to let Jason know about this new position as soon as possible. So, on the way out of the door Mark sees Jason still at his desk and he approaches Jason and he says Jason I’m so glad you’re still here. Great news, I have accepted a promotion in another division. Looks like you and I are going to have new bosses. Then Mark says, don’t stay too late. You no longer have to impress me, and with that, Mark goes out the door. Jayson is completely taken a back by Mark’s announcement, and he’s so stunned that he just sits there and just stares into space for 15 minutes. Now let’s pause at this point in the story and consider Mark’s approach. What Mark did was easy for Mark. He traded sharing the information early for sharing the information wisely. And the truth is that change is difficult for most of us and Mark really didn’t know that this would be as difficult a transition for Jason. And so Mark’s guilty of what we call hit-and-run communications. Basically, change can be difficult. And it’s a good idea to consider using some steps, that we’re going to cover here, to communicate difficult news. All of these steps could have led to a more effective and less traumatic communication. It would have been very helpful if Mark had planned this discussion with Jason and if he had approached him using better timing and better setting. He also could have conveyed how much he appreciated Jason, while explaining to him why this promotion was important for him. Okay, now back to our story. After Jason recovered from the shock of Mark’s announcement, he became anxious. What does this mean for me, he wondered. Jason also became angry with Mark for treating him as if he was insignificant. Jason worked hard for Mark, and he felt that he deserved better than a quick, I’m leaving, as he ran out the door. And when Jason got home he started to text Mark, so what about my position? What does this mean for me? Actually, Jason sent Mark several texts throughout the evening. And then the next morning, Jason’s waiting in the parking lot for Mark. And Jason is bombarding Mark with questions. Who will be my new boss? Can I put in for the position? Can I transfer with you? Will my role by changing? What will happen? Mark held up his hand and just for acknowledgement and said, Jason, I’m sorry, I can see that I have upset you. Let’s go out to lunch today and let’s take as much time as we need to discuss my upcoming transition. At the end of lunch, Jason felt so much better about the change. He and Mark were fine and were able to resume their strong professional relationship. Now let’s pause here for a moment in the story and consider Jason’s response to Mark. It’s normal for Jason to be concerned. Mark’s leaving, he’s going to have a new boss, he wants to know how this is going to affect his little world. Many people think of themselves first when they learn of changes. We want to know about our job security. And Mark did not do a very great job in communicating the change to Jason. Jason could really use some help with his communication too. Starting with how and when he approached Mark. Even though he was anxious, peppering Mark with text messages all evening was really not the best idea. Jason definitely came off as needy and self absorbed. Obvious questions were about himself, me, me, me. It would’ve been nice if Jason had started off by offering Mark congratulations and learning about the new position. Then it would have acceptable to ask about the timing of the transition. And of course, he could ask about potential impact to his job, that’s completely normal. The issue is the way in which you sending out too many text messages, waiting in the parking lot for his boss, these don’t really come across as professional behaviors. Jason also really missed an important opportunity to ask about how he could have helped with this transition. Now back to our story, enter Lisa. Lisa was hired from outside the company to fill Mark’s position so that he could accept his promotion in the other division. Now Jason knew that change would be difficult, but Lisa was driving him crazy. She loves to text. And even though Jason sat right outside of her office door, she would still text him. She liked meetings at the end of the day, and they would tend to run late. And the problem here was that Jason frequently picked his son up from daycare. And when he’s late, he’s fined a late charge for being late, for picking up his son after hours. Lisa often would call him at home on a Sunday to discuss ideas. Jason decided that he wanted to call Mark up and just ask him for some advice. Mark listened patiently about his concerns and he said, so, what have you and Lisa talked about this? What have you decided about your position? What has she shared with you in terms of her expectations? And at first Jason didn’t really know how to respond and then he says well. I did not think I could say anything to her because she’s the boss and I really don’t know what her expectations are. Well, Mark said, it sounds like you need to talk to Lisa and have a really good conversation. Definitely, think before you speak. But you do have a say in this. And yeah, she’s the boss, so let her talk first, but remember you had to straighten me out about end of day meetings when you first started working for me. And the longer that you let this go on, the more guilty you are of really agreeing with the behavior. And Lisa’s going to think that it’s okay and that late meetings and early Sunday morning phone calls are the way you two are going to work together. Jason begins to realize that, of course Mark is right and Jason understands that he does really need to tell, to be flexible. After Jason hangs up the phone he sends Lisa a text and asks her if they can spend some time later that day, or perhaps the next day to compare notes on roles and responsibilities and expectations. Jason starts the meeting by letting Lisa speak first, lets her talk about her plans for the group, and then asks about her expectations for him. And this allows him to ask her, is there a specific strategy about the Sunday morning phone calls? Because he mentions also that it’s family day. And then he’s able to also slip in that he has a young son. And that some days he picks his son up from day care. Now, Lisa understands immediately and she happens to be single and with no children. So were many of her previous coworkers at her previous company. So she tells Jason that she didn’t mean to make him feel like he had to work on Sundays and to be intrusive. And that perhaps each week what they could do is go to lunch or take a coffee break and strategize that way, as opposed to on Sunday mornings. Well, because Jason was willing to have this open, honest discussion with Lisa, they are able to move forward together and build a strong professional relationship. Respecting one another’s communication styles. And so now, our story has a happy ending.
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